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Russia kicked out of World Cup: even the ‘charlatans’ from Fifa ‘got there in the end’

Russian clubs and national teams are suspended from all Fifa and Uefa competitions 

In 2018 Russia celebrated hosting the Fifa World Cup for the first time ever and reached the quarter-final stage of their “home” tournament – where they were beaten on penalties by eventual runners-up Croatia. Four years later, however, there won’t be a Russian presence at Qatar 2022. 

Following the invasion of Ukraine, football’s world and European governing bodies, Fifa and Uefa, confirmed last night that “all Russian teams”, national or club, have been suspended from international football “until further notice”.

This means that the Russian national men’s team will not play in the World Cup play-off semi-final next month against Poland and the women’s team have been banned from this summer’s Euro 2022 competition, the BBC reported. Spartak Moscow have also been kicked out of the Europa League and Uefa has ended its sponsorship with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” the Fifa and Uefa joint statement said. “Both presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”

The RFU, Russian football’s governing body, “categorically disagreed” with the decision and would challenge it “in accordance with international sports law”. 

Spartak Moscow called the suspension “upsetting”. The club tweeted: “We believe that sport, even in the most difficult times, should aim to build bridges, and not burn them. We will focus on domestic competitions and hope for a speedy achievement of peace that everybody needs.”

‘Bold steps’ by boycotting nations

Fifa had initially handed out a number of sporting sanctions to Russia – for which the body was widely criticised. The Fifa Council had announced on Sunday that the “member association representing Russia” would participate under the name “Football Union of Russia (RFU)” and not “Russia”; no Russian flag or anthem would be used at matches; and no international competition would be played in Russia, with “home” fixtures held in neutral territory and without supporters.

Russia’s World Cup play-off opponents Poland called the sanctions “disgraceful”. And the Polish football association said the national team would not play Russia “no matter what the name of the team is”. Sweden and the Czech Republic joined Poland in refusing to play against a Russian team. 

Under “intense” international pressure, Fifa made an “abrupt about-face”, said Keith Rathbone on The Conversation. However, it took the “bold steps” from the Polish, Swedish and the Czech football associations for Fifa to “change its mind”. 

A cosy relationship with Putin 

With the initial sanctions, Fifa’s “appalling compromise” became “untenable within seconds” of its announcement, said Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. “Never forget it”, but ultimately it was Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic who “took on Fifa, and won”. 

Despite “trying to weasel” out of it, those “charlatans” from Fifa “got there in the end”, Samuel added. Even Fifa president Gianni Infantino “wasn’t foolish enough to believe he could maintain his cosy relationship” with pal Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. 

Fifa may have finally acted against Russia, but it “doesn’t undo a long history of cosying up” to Putin, Rathbone said on The Conversation. “Fifa has long allowed dictators to politicise the game. It now has a responsibility to clean up its own mess.”

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