PARIS – Football’s world governing body Fifa announced that it had partially lifted Russia’s ban from international football by allowing Under-17 girls’ and boys’ teams from the country to take part in tournaments.
The move follows a similar relaxation on Russia youth teams last week by European football body Uefa.
“This is conditional on these teams playing under the name of the ‘Football Union of Russia’ rather than Russia, in the absence of their national flag, their national anthem, their national-team kit and equipment, and instead playing in neutral colours,” Fifa said in a statement.
“The Fifa Council reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and confirmed that the remaining terms of the decision made on 28 February 2022 remain in force until the end of the conflict.”
The Russian boys’ U-17 team, however, will not participate in the World Cup in Indonesia to be held from Nov 10 to Dec 2, after being suspended from taking part in qualifying.
Teams from Russia had been banned from international football after Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022.
Uefa decided following the start of the war that all Russian teams – national or club sides – would not be allowed to compete in its competitions.
But last week, the body said that “children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults”, and that Russian U-17 sides would be re-admitted to Uefa competitions “in the course of this season”.
Uefa, like Fifa, has maintained a ban on the country’s senior sides.
But by opening the door to the return of Russian teams at the youth level, the football bodies have previewed a path forward for a variety of sports and federations – including the International Olympic Committee – that are struggling to find a way to include Russian athletes and teams in their competitions before the 2024 Paris Olympics.
On the other hand, the Ukrainian Association of Football has since urged Uefa to reconsider its decision and said it will not play in tournaments involving Russian teams.
England, Poland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have also said their youth teams would not play against Russia despite Uefa’s decision.
If the countries refuse to play those matches, or refuse to allow Russian teams to enter their borders, it could affect the competitive balance of major events and open the federations to punishment.
That could also lead to a broader fight about the reintegration of Russia at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Switzerland-based body empowered to resolve disputes in global sports.