Russia invited to participate in Central Asian football events

Russia, along with seven other national teams, were invited to participate in the inaugural Central Asian Football Union Championships in June.

Russian sides have been banned from European and FIFA competitions since the invasion of Ukraine last February. But the Tajik Football Federation announced on Monday that a Russian team could take part in the new regional tournament along with former Soviet republics Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Afghanistan, Iran and one other country, yet to be confirmed, will complete the line-up for the games, which are expected to be played in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

According to the Tajik Football Federation, Russia has already accepted the invitation. But the Football Union of Russia told state media: “We are currently holding talks about the possibility and conditions of the Russian national team’s participation in this tournament.”

The move will reignite debate over Russia’s possible joining the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as the country seeks to return to international football competitions. In January, the President of the Russian Football Union, Alexander Dyukov, backed off a December threat to join the AFC after meeting with European football officials.

No solution found yet. Dyukov attended the AFC Congress in Bahrain last month and held talks with AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. “We have good relations with the Russian Federation and the rest of the European federations and we are always in touch with the federations on all occasions,” Salman said after the meeting. “We want the best interests of the game while we try to keep politics out of football.” The Russia men’s national team played just three international friendlies in 2022, against Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The team is scheduled to meet with Iran and Iraq later this month. Most Olympic sports have banned athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus since shortly after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. The IOC initially recommended excluding them for safety reasons, but now says keeping the restrictions in place would be discriminatory.

Last month, 35 countries signed a statement criticizing the IOC’s plans to allow Russians and Belarusians to return to competitions ahead of qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Olympics as neutral athletes without national symbols.


More AP football: and Russia invited to participate in Central Asian football events

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