Russian teams were suspended Monday from all international soccer, including qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup, as Moscow was pushed toward pariah status in sports for its invasion of Ukraine.
World soccer body FIFA and European authority UEFA banned Russian national and club teams from their competitions “until further notice.” Russia’s men’s national team had been scheduled to play in World Cup qualifying playoffs in just three weeks’ time.
“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement.
The high-level punishment involving sports and politics — something not seen for decades — came after the International Olympic Committee pushed dozens of sports governing bodies to exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events.
The IOC said this action was needed to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”
Denying Russia a place on the international stage could deliver a financial and psychological blow to the country, along with tarnishing its image as an elite sports powerhouse.
FIFA’s move excluded Russia from the World Cup ahead of qualifying playoff March 24. Poland already had refused to play its scheduled game against Russia.
UEFA also took the last remaining Russians in European club competitions this season, Spartak Moscow, out of the second-tier Europa League. Spartak’s scheduled opponent on March 10 and 17, Leipzig of Germany, advances directly to the quarterfinals, UEFA said.
Russia now faces the kind of isolation suffered by Yugoslavian teams in 1992 after war broke out in the Balkans and by South African teams and athletes during the apartheid era of racial segregation and discrimination.
South Africa was suspended by FIFA in 1964 and expelled in 1976 over apartheid, then reinstated in 1992. Yugoslavia was dropped from the 1992 European Championship on short notice, a day after the United Nations approved sanctions against the war-torn country. It was barred from 1994 World Cup qualifying, before emerging as separate nations.
Decisions by FIFA and UEFA can typically be challenged on appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. The Football Union of Russia said in a statement that it would “reserve the right to challenge” the decision.
Hockey followed suit, with international and NHL officials also punishing Russia.
The International Ice Hockey Federation banned Russia and close ally Belarus from competitions at all age levels and said it was moving the 2023 world junior championship out of Siberia.
The NHL also condemned the invasion, suspending all business dealings in Russia and ruling out the possibility of holding events there in the near future.
The IOC also went directly after President Vladimir Putin, who turned the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics into a personal project. Putin’s golden Olympic Order, which was awarded in 2001, has been withdrawn, the IOC said in a statement.
In the World Cup, Russia’s potential future opponents Sweden and the Czech Republic had joined Poland saying they would refuse to take the field. The World Cup is scheduled to begin Nov. 21 in Qatar.
Ukraine tennis player will not play Russian opponent
Top-seeded Elina Svitolina, a 27-year-old professional tennis player from Ukraine, said she will withdraw from the Monterrey Open rather than face a Russian opponent at the Mexican tournament unless tennis’s governing bodies follow the International Olympic Committee’s lead and insist that players from Russia and Belarus are only identified as “neutral athletes.”
Svitolina wrote on Twitter that she did not want to play her opening-round contest against Anastasia Potapova “nor any other match against Russian or Belarussian tennis players until” the WTA women’s tour, ATP men’s tour and International Tennis Federation “follow the recommendations of the IOC” and bar those countries’ competitors from using any national symbols, colors, flags or anthems.
“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes,” Svitolina wrote. “They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.”
Svitolina is a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles who has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 15.
The WTA and ATP did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Associated Press.
Russian soccer player does not celebrate his goal
Russia international Aleksei Miranchuk held his head down and didn’t celebrate after scoring the final goal in Atalanta’s 4-0 win over Sampdoria in Serie A at Bergamo, Italy.
Miranchuk’s goal came hours after Russia’s national team was suspended from qualifying matches for the World Cup, as Moscow was pushed toward pariah status in sports for its invasion of Ukraine.
In other circumstances, Miranchuk’s goal would have been worthy of quite a celebration, because it was extraordinary. He dribbled by four defenders — diverting some of them by shifting his view across the field for an instant — before scoring from the edge of the area.
Immediately after the goal, Miranchuk held his hands up to signify he wouldn’t celebrate then was quickly surrounded by teammates.