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Ukraine, Poland to boycott UEFA competitions featuring Russian teams

Ukrainian football teams will boycott all competitions featuring Russian sides while Poland will refuse to play against teams from the country, their national federations said on Wednesday following a decision by UEFA to lift a ban on Russia’s youth sides.

“The UAF confirms that it will not take part in any competitions involving Russian teams,” the Ukrainian Football Association said in response to the announcement by European football’s governing body.

It also called on other UEFA members to boycott matches against Russian teams, which the president of Poland’s Football Association promptly promised to do.

“I was surprised by yesterday’s statement from the UEFA Executive Committee. If Russian national teams are allowed to participate in the competition, our national teams will not compete with them,” Cezary Kulesza wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“This is the only right decision.”

England’s Football Association were also against the lifting of the ban by UEFA, a spokesperson telling AFP their stance had not changed: “English teams will not be playing against Russia”.

European football’s governing body and world governing body FIFA swiftly barred all Russian teams from competitions last year in response to Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.

UEFA also stripped Saint Petersburg of the hosting rights of the 2022 Champions League final and cancelled a sponsorship deal with Gazprom, the Russian energy giant.

However, on Tuesday it decided to allow for the return of Russian youth teams at a meeting of its executive committee.

The decision paved the way for Russia’s Under-17 teams, boys and girls, to be readmitted to its competitions immediately, “in the course of this season…even when draws have already been held”.

“The Ukrainian Association of Football strongly condemns the decision by UEFA to return U-17 teams from Russia to international competitions,” the UAF said in a statement late Tuesday.

Blanket bans

Announcing the decision, UEFA argued that a “generation of minors” was being deprived of the right to compete, and that children should not be punished for the actions of adults.

However, it said Russian teams would not be able to play on Russian territory, and that the country’s flag, anthem and national playing kit would be barred. 

UEFA holds its European Under-17 Championships annually, with qualifying beginning on Wednesday for the next men’s edition, a 16-team tournament due to be held in Cyprus in May and June next year.

Qualifying begins next month for next year’s Women’s Under-17 Euro, to be played in Sweden next May.

Ukraine has repeatedly called for blanket bans on Russia from international sporting events and has threatened to boycott the 2024 Paris Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes take part.

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