FIFA Will Ban on Russia, Ejecting It From World Cup Qualifying

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FIFA, world soccer’s global governing body, has decided to impose an indefinite ban on Russia and its teams, ejecting the country from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup only weeks before it was to play for one of Europe’s final places in the tournament.

FIFA’s decision, which will be announced on Monday evening, came a day after the organization was heavily criticized for not going far enough in punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. On Sunday, FIFA had proposed a series of sanctions against Russia — including a temporary ban on its name, flag and national anthem, and a prohibition on its hosting international matches — amid demands from several national federations for stronger action.

The initial pressure to bar Russia came from Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, which faced the prospect of games against Russia in the World Cup playoff. Other countries and officials, including the federations in France, England and the United States, quickly said they would not play against Russia under any circumstances.

Officials from European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, will join FIFA in issuing and honoring the ban.

FIFA and UEFA decided to bar Russia only hours after the International Olympic Committee called for international sports federations to prohibit Russian athletes and teams from all global sporting events where possible. The Olympic officials said Russia had breached a commitment — known as the Olympic Truce, and signed before the start of the Beijing Winter Games and scheduled to run through the Paralympics that start this week — by invading Ukraine.

The immediate consequence of the ban on Russia is that it will have to forfeit its place in a four-team group for one of Europe’s final places for the World Cup. Poland, which was scheduled to play Russia in March, had said it would refuse to play the game, a stance it repeated after FIFA announced its initial slate of penalties on Sunday night. Sweden and the Czech Republic, the teams that could have met Russia in a final game if the Russians beat Poland, issued the same warning.

Cezary Kulesza, the president of Poland’s soccer federation, called FIFA’s initial decision not to eject Russia “totally unacceptable.” In a post on Twitter, he added: “We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances. Our stance remains intact: Polish National Team will NOT PLAY with Russia, no matter what the name of the team is.”

The indefinite ban on Russia also extends to its club teams, meaning that Spartak Moscow, its last remaining participant in a continental competition, will no longer be able to compete in its Europa League knockout out game against Germany’s RB Leipzig. That match was already in doubt before Monday’s decision, with officials unsure how the Russian team could travel after the European Union issued a blanket ban on Russian flights into the 27-member bloc.

It remains unclear if the decision to exclude Russia will face a challenge in the courts. Russia, as well as some of its athletes, have in recent years successfully fought exclusion from other events, including the Olympic Games, by getting punishments watered down through appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. q

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