Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

Banned Russia looks to Asian football

Australian soccer teams may find themselves expected to play ones from Russia who are thinking of joining the Asian federation having been banned by UEFA.

December 27, 2022
27 December 2022

The suspension of all Russian teams by the European football federation (UEFA) over the country’s invasion of Ukraine has Moscow mulling a bid to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

That could have an impact on the Socceroos and Australian clubs.

“We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, the AFC is open to accepting us into its midst,” Aleksandr Dyukov, the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said.

Dyukov is due to preside over a historic meeting of the RFU”s executive committee on Tuesday, where officials could decide whether to abandon European football and join the likes of Japan, Syria and Australia in the AFC in a bid to make the 2026 World Cup.

Such a move would affect Russia”s club powerhouses such as Zenit, Spartak Moscow and CSKA Moscow, who would no longer be able to feature in UEFA competitions like the Champions League.

It would also parachute an experienced national team into Asian World Cup qualifying, and several strong clubs into the Asian Champions League. 

This could affect the chances of Australian national and club sides as well as having political ramifications.

“No-one has ever left UEFA,” Dyukov acknowledged, adding that there was no set process for a breakaway.

Israel, an Asian nation by geography, plays in UEFA for political reasons. Kazakhstan, a Central Asian nation with a sliver of land in Europe, also opted to tussle it out in European football.

Turkey is also mainly Asian, but plays in Europe at a national and club level.

European Russia, located to the west of the Ural mountains, is home to Moscow, the capital, as well as most Russians.

But the majority of Russia’s territory, with Siberia expanding to the Pacific Ocean, is in Asia, meaning it has the geographical right to request AFC membership.

Dyukov has called for a decision to be made by the end of the year, supposedly in a bid to limit the chances of missing the next World Cup, due to take place in North America’s Mexico, the United States and Canada.

According to him, Russia would be in time to compete in the qualification stages and insists international governing body FIFA would not be opposed to its inclusion.

The Kremlin backs the switch to Asia due to the ongoing political and economic tensions with the US and the European Union over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Also, it must be said, unfortunately, we are also growing apart from Europe ideologically,” Dyukov, who attended the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite Russia”s absence, has said.

However, there are fears the standard of Russian football would decline with European and South American players less likely to join clubs while fan interest and club revenue could slump.

More in Top Stories