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Is the isolation of Russian athletes over?

UEFA allows under-17 teams to return to its tournaments, and Ukraine and England announce their refusal.

رئيس الاتحاد الأوروبي لكرة القدم "يويفا" ألكسندر تشيفرين

A little more than 19 months after the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the subsequent international siege of Russian sports at all levels, it seems that the isolation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is about to end completely, and the situation will return to what it was before February 20, 2022.

During the past hours, the European Football Association (UEFA) said after its executive committee meeting in Limassol, Cyprus, that it would discuss the options available for the return of Russian youth teams to competitions for the first time since Moscow began what it called a “special military operation” against Ukraine.

In February 2022, UEFA decided to stop all Russian teams, whether national or club, from participating in its competitions, and the Continental Union also canceled its partnership with the Russian energy company, Gazprom.

UEFA said in a statement that it “realizes that children should not be punished for actions that are exclusively the responsibility of adults... For these reasons, the UEFA Executive Committee decided to return Russian teams that include young players to their competitions during this season.”

“The Executive Committee asked the UEFA administration to propose a technical solution that would allow the return of Russia’s under-17 teams (both girls and boys) even after the draw has already taken place.”

UEFA added that the Russian teams' matches will be held outside Russia and will not include raising the country's flag, playing its national anthem, or wearing the national uniform.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: “By preventing children from participating in our competitions, we are not only failing to recognize and support their fundamental rights in the context of their comprehensive development, but we are directly discriminating against them.”

In response to UEFA's decision, Ukraine said that it would not play in any tournament in which Russian teams participated, and in a statement issued late on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Football Association urged UEFA to reconsider its decision and also called on other countries not to play. In front of the Russian teams.

The Ukrainian Football Federation said, “The Ukrainian Federation strongly condemns the European Union’s decision regarding the return of the Russian under-17 team to international competitions,” and urged UEFA to adhere to the comprehensive ban it imposed on Russian teams.

He added, "The Ukrainian Federation confirms that it will not play in any competition in which Russian teams participate and appeals to other UEFA member associations to boycott potential matches with the participation of Russian teams."

The English Football Association said that the English youth team will not play against Russia, and the English Football Association stressed that it does not agree with the European Union’s decision.

An English FA spokesman added to Reuters, "We do not support the position of returning Russia to the European Union's junior age group competitions, and our position remains that English teams will not play against Russia."

The position of the European Football Association did not come in isolation from the general trend to gradually return Russian sports to international competitions, even according to specific conditions, after the International Olympic Committee imposed sanctions on Russian and Belarusian athletes in February, but it backed down in recent months and became determined to allow their return to competitions in every country. Games and give them the opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

On March 29, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas, said that the Executive Board of the Committee recommended that athletes from Russia and Belarus return to international competitions.

Bach added in a press conference after the meeting, "The sports federation's sole responsibility should be to determine which athletes can participate in international competitions based on their athletic merit, not for political reasons or because of their passports."

The committee set a path for athletes from Russia and Belarus to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris by participating in the Asian qualifiers instead of Europe and competing as neutrals without the flag or national anthem of either country, but it faced strong opposition led by Ukraine, which threatened to boycott the Olympics if they were allowed to compete until... As neutrals.

The Wimbledon Tennis Championships retracted its previous decision to prevent Russian and Belarusian players from participating in the major tournament, about a year after preventing them from participating in the 2022 edition.

On June 22, the International Olympic Committee appealed to Ukraine to give its athletes the opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics despite the partial ban on competing with athletes from Russia and Belarus.

Bach said that his foundation will support “every Ukrainian athlete” who wants to participate in the Olympic qualifiers through his sport, and added, “We will support every Ukrainian athlete in preparing and participating in any competitions to make the Ukrainian people proud.”



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