FIFA to ban Russia, disqualifying it from World Cup

FIFA, the global governing body of soccer, imposed on Monday an indefinite ban on Russia from participating in all competitions.

The decision came amid international pressure to ban Russia from soccer’s World Cup, which is to take place later this year in Qatar.

The Russian team was set to compete against Poland in a World Cup qualifying semifinal match on March 24, but Poland had insisted it would not play Russia given that country’s invasion of Ukraine, which borders Poland.

FIFA initially had signaled it might allow the game to go forward if the Russian team did not play under its colors and flag, but Poland and other countries had said that was not enough.

“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” FIFA’s announcement on Monday said, adding that the body’s leadership hoped “that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”

FIFA initially had said it would prohibit matches in Russia and ban the Russian flag and national anthem in any competition. At the time, it said that Russia would be required to instead play under the name “Football Union of Russia.”

Polish soccer star Robert Lewandowski, who plays for Bayern Munich and was named FIFA’s top men’s player for 2021, was among those urging FIFA to punish Russia for the invasion. Lewandowski, one of the biggest stars in his support, said Saturday it was hard to imagine a game going forward.

“It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues,” he said, responding to a tweet from Poland’s soccer federation demanding the game with Russia be canceled.

“Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening. As an athlete, I can’t pretend nothing is happening,” Lewandowski added in another tweet.

The FIFA decision is just the latest example of how international condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has rocked the soccer world. 

On Saturday, the Chelsea football team’s owner announced a charitable trust would indefinitely run the team. Owner Roman Abramovich is a Russian billionaire seen as friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

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