Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a stir in the sports world, with athletes from Russia and elsewhere speaking out against acts of aggression ordered by Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Today, Russian athletes and teams are seeing the first official bans issued by some of the world’s biggest sports organisations, including FIFA, the world governing body for football, and UEFA, which governs the sport in Europe. Both organizations are banning Russian teams at club and national level from all competitions “until further notice”, FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement today.
“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all those affected in Ukraine,” the statement read. “Both presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and quickly so that football can once again be a vehicle for unity and peace between peoples.”
The decision prevents the Russian men’s national team from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. Russia was due to play a final qualifying round against Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, and football officials from the three countries others lobbied FIFA to enact the ban. US Soccer also released a declaration of solidarity with Ukraine, stating that American teams “would not tarnish our global game, nor dishonor Ukraine, by taking the same ground as Russia, regardless of the level of competition or the circumstances, until may freedom and peace be restored”.
The FIFA and UEFA ban came shortly after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes be banned from international sporting events. “The Olympic Movement is united in its mission to contribute to peace through sport and to unite the world in peaceful competition beyond all political differences,” said a statement from the IOC Board of Directors. But the war in Ukraine “places the Olympic Movement in a dilemma”, continued the IOC. “While Russian and Belarusian athletes could continue to participate in sporting events, many Ukrainian athletes are prevented from doing so due to the attack on their country.” (The IOC included Belarus in its statement for its “support” of Russia’s attacks.)
The IOC has also criticized Russia for violating the Olympic truce, which runs from the week before the start of the Olympics to a week after the end of the Paralympics. The truce aims to promote peace through sport while allowing safe passage for athletes traveling to and from the Games.
Despite the gestures, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has yet to make a statement on whether Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in the Paralympic Games, which start on March 4. The committee’s board is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.