Since the time my last article was written, a lot has changed. At the time, no real challenges had been made towards Russia or Russian teams concerning their eligibility in major tournaments. Only Poland and Ukraine had announced their intentions to not face Russia, whilst Path B rivals Czech Republic had not. Major European sponsor Gazprom had been dropped from Schalke’s shirts, but they still remained important to UEFA’s sponsorship.
A lot has now changed. In the days following, Czech Republic announced their refusal to face Russia in World Cup qualifying matches. In response to this, FIFA announced that Russia must play without their anthem, flag, and name—they would have to play as the “Football Union of Russia,” or RFU. This drew complaints from the Rugby Football Union, which used the same initials. They wouldn’t have to wait long, however—more federations spoke out, including USA and France, and Russia were thrown out of the World Cup. All Russian clubs were also removed from European competition, which included booting Spartak Moscow out of Europa League’s Round of 16. This also caused UEFA to end their sponsorship with Gazprom.
Now, the World Cup qualifiers, which were set to take place later this month, are in complete shambles. Russia have appealed this suspension, which has no timeline, whilst a replacement for Russia has not yet been named. It’s highly unlikely that Poland would receive a bye into the final of Path B, so one would assume that Russia’s spot would be replaced by the team they beat out for a spot in the playoffs (potentially Slovakia). However, that’s not been confirmed. Meanwhile, Ukraine—who face Scotland in qualifiers—have requested their own game be pushed back. This is understandable due to the circumstances surrounding the war, as well as the fact that the Ukrainian Premier League has been suspended. Unfortunately, the World Cup is in just a few months, so they can only push it off for so long.
Russia’s Premier League is also suffering, as an exodus has begun. Ukrainian defender Yaroslav Rakitskyi terminated his contract with Zenit Saint Petersburg due to their treatment of his home country. Krasnodar’s manager Daniel Farke, formerly of Norwich, also resigned before even coaching a game for the Russian side, with Krasnodar possibly ready to release eight foreign players from their contracts. Grzegorz Krychowiak, a Poland international, is among the players expected to leave. Because of this, FIFA has allegedly been approached about opening a new transfer window to allow foreign players to leave the country.
In the English Premier League, Chelsea have caused controversy of their own as Roman Abramovich has announced his intention to sell the club, who he bought in 2003. This is due to his alleged ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, which has sparked frustration across the UK. Many fans still view Abramovich as a hero who brought Chelsea to glory, whereas others question his shady political ties and finances—nothing new for many Premier League managers. Looking at you, bin Salman.
The fallout over the war in Ukraine has caused many problems across the soccer world, and likely will continue to do as such. However, it’s important to remember at times like this that worse things are going on than the World Cup qualifiers being pushed back and UEFA and clubs losing some sponsorship money. Some things are more important than soccer.
Image courtesy of Bex Walton from London, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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