Football: return of Russian youth teams brings back boycott
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Football: return of Russian youth teams brings back boycott

Ukraine and Poland have announced a boycott of youth football competitions where Russian teams have been reinstated by UEFA.

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Ukraine and Poland responded on Wednesday to the return of Russian youth teams to European soccer competitions, reviving fears of a chain boycott and illustrating the Russians’ perilous reintegration into world sport.

The Ukrainian Federation (AUF) “strongly condemn” UEFA’s decision, announced on Tuesday, to once again approve Russian under-17 teams in its tournaments, while maintaining the ban on senior teams voted in February 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

AUF “confirms that it will not participate in any competition in which Russian teams participate”and urges UEFA to “reconsider”, she wrote in a press release. It further encourages other countries to “boycott possible matches involving Russian teams, if they are brought up.”

In the process, the Polish Confederation (PZPN) complied with this request by announcing that their national teams would refuse to face the Russians. “This is the only good solution”said Polish football manager Cezary Kulesza on X (ex-Twitter), “surprised” of the UEFA announcement.

The English federation, for its part, reiterated its principled position – “English teams will not play against Russia”according to a spokesperson interviewed by AFP – and also disapproving of the turnaround by the European body.

Don’t punish the “kids”

However, UEFA attempted on Tuesday to make a limited U-turn on its policy of excluding Russians, recalling its “condemnation of the illegal war waged by Russia”and now “the suspension of all other Russian teams – clubs and national teams – until the end of the conflict in Ukraine.”

But for the organization based in Nyon (Switzerland), “Children should not be punished for actions that adults alone are responsible for.”

For the UEFA Executive Committee, “It is particularly regrettable that due to the ongoing conflict, a generation of underage players has been deprived of the right to compete in international football competitions.”

The government in the organization therefore charged its administration with “propose a technical solution” which allows the immediate reintegration of Russian under-17 teams, both women and men, “even when the draws have already taken place.”

However, their meetings will have to be played “without the flag, the anthem and the official uniforms” russian, “and outside Russian territory”specifies UEFA.

This episode once again illustrates the Russians’ tumultuous reintegration into world sport, in scattered order according to disciplines, while their presence at the 2024 Olympics in Paris is still not clear.

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