Monday, December 5, 2022

World Cup ban, refusal to play Russians: Sport reacts to invasion of Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked widespread reaction in the sports world, with the country booted out of this year’s World Cup and the IOC calling for a global sporting ban.
A look at some of the main developments:
 Russia is expelled from the 2022 World Cup after being suspended from all international competitions, FIFA and UEFA announce in a joint statement. The decision also affects Russian clubs in European tournaments.
 The Russian men’s team was due to play in qualifying play-offs in March for the World Cup in Qatar later this year, while its women’s side had qualified for the European Championship in England, to be held in July.
 The Polish FA had previously insisted they would not play Russia in a World Cup play-off semi-final. Poland were due to play in Moscow on March 24, with the winners scheduled to face Sweden or the Czech Republic, who had also said they would boycott any game against Russia.
 UEFA also announces that it is ending its partnership with Russian state energy giant Gazprom, which was believed to have been paying around 40 million euros ($45 million) a year in a deal due to run until 2024.
 Saint Petersburg were stripped as hosts of UEFA’s Champions League final set for May 28. The game has been switched to the Stade de France in Paris.
 At Wembley on Sunday, Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson carried flowers in Ukraine’s yellow and blue colours onto the pitch before kick-off in the English League Cup final. One supportive banner in Ukraine’s blue and yellow colours read “You’ll never walk alone” in reference to Liverpool’s anthem.
 On Saturday, Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich said he was handing over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to the trustees of its charitable foundation. In his statement, there was no mention of the crisis in Ukraine.
 The International Olympic Committee urges sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events. A ban of this kind would see Russia join the Yugoslavia of Slobodan Milosevic and South Africa under apartheid rule as major sporting pariahs.
 Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina becomes the first tennis player to refuse to play a Russian. The former world number three says she will not face opponents from Russia or Belarus. She had been due to face Russian Anastasia Potapova in Monterrey on Tuesday.
 At the Dubai ATP event last week, Russia’s Andrey Rublev marked his semi-final win over Hubert Hurkacz by signing the camera lens on court with the message, “No war please”.
 The Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September 25, was cancelled, a day after defending world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel publicly declared their opposition to driving in the race.
 American Formula One team Haas decided not to sport the Russian colours of its title sponsor Uralkali during the last day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
 The International Ice Hockey Federation suspends all Russian and Belarusian national teams and clubs from its competitions until further notice. It also strips Russia of the hosting rights for the 2023 junior world championships.
 Boxing’s four major sanctioning bodies — the International Boxing federation, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization — said in a joint statement they will not sanction bouts in Russia. “Just as the world claims for cease of fire, our organizations have decided to not sanction any boxing championships in Russia,” they said.
 Russian President Vladimir Putin was suspended as honorary president of the International Judo Federation (IJF). Putin, an accomplished judoka who was awarded an eighth dan in 2014 — one of the highest levels in the sport, had been honorary president since 2008.
 Ukrainian fencers withdrew from the world championships in Cairo to avoid a match with Russia. The male Ukrainian team, dressed in the yellow and blue of their national flag, downed their swords and picked up signs to protest. “Stop Russia! Stop the war!,” the signs read, written in English. “Save Ukraine! Save Europe”.
 Rugby’s world governing body banned Russia and Belarus from all international rugby “until further notice”. Russia’s membership of World Rugby was also suspended indefinitely, meaning the country’s slim hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in France are over.
 The Badminton World Federation (BWF) strengthened within a matter of hours their measures against Russia and Belarus having originally cancelled all sanctioned tournaments in Russia and Belarus they announced a ban on athletes and officials representing the two countries from participating at tournaments sanctioned by the world federation.
 Putin like in other sports has had his personal award the FINA Order withdrawn by the governing body. However, FINA the governing body stopped short of barring all Russians and Belarusians competing saying they could be “accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams.”
 World Taekwondo said Tuesday they were stripping Vladimir Putin of an honorary black belt, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine goes against the sport’s motto: “Peace is more precious than triumph”. The body also said no Russian or Belarusian national flags or anthems will be displayed and played at events, nor will any future events be organised in the two countries.
 Russian and Belarus ice skaters have been barred from all competitions by the International Skating Union (ISU). Russia is a powerhouse in ice skating most recently winning six medals — two of them gold — at the Beijing Winter Olympics. The blanket ban on athletes competing also includes short track and speed skating.
 Russia has been stripped of hosting the men’s Volleyball World Championships in August and September by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB).

India’s football friendly versus Belarus cancelled
India’s football friendly against Belarus later this month has been called off as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision comes on the back of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) suggestion that athletes and officials from Russia and its close ally, Belarus, be isolated from the sporting arena, The Indian Express reported.
India were scheduled to play two international friendlies this month, against Bahrain on March 23, followed by Belarus on March 26. Indian players had termed the matches as ‘huge opportunities’ with an eye on the Asian Cup qualifiers, to be played in June. Both matches were to be played in Manama.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary-general Kushal Das said they will instead try and schedule two matches against Bahrain, who are ranked 91 in the world. “Since Belarus has been suspended, we can’t play them,” Das told The Indian Express. “We have a match with Bahrain so we are trying to see if we can organise two matches with them.”
Late Monday night, FIFA suspended Russia from international football, including this month’s World Cup qualifier.
Also Read |BWF bans Russia, Belarus athletes following IOC recommendations
Belarus has been sanctioned for supporting Russia’s invasion. According to The New York Times, they have allowed Russia to stage attacks from their country, and some Russian troops have reportedly entered Ukraine through Belarus.
The match against Belarus, ranked 94th in the world, would have been the first time in more than a decade that India would have played a European team. The last time India took on a European opponent was in February 2012, when they lost 3-0 to Azerbaijan.

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