MOSCOW, December 6. /TASS/. The Russian national team’s suspension from international qualifying events demonstrates that sports officials want to destroy football in Russia, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
Last week, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) did not include Russia on the list of European national teams for the draw of the 2024/2025 UEFA Nations League.
"We are convinced that this early denial to our country’s participation in qualifying tournaments is proof that football officials want to destroy this sport in our country instead of fulfilling their obligations, which stipulate developing football," Zakharova told a news briefing.
In this regard, Zakharova recalled that the UEFA "Nations League is one of the qualifying tournaments for the 2026 [FIFA] World Cup."
"Therefore, the decisions officials make today determine the future of this sport for the next three years," she continued. "Moreover, in line with the decisions of the bureau of the International Federation of Football Associations [FIFA] Council and the UEFA Executive Committee, Russian national teams and football clubs have been barred from tournaments supervised by these organizations until further notice."
"As a result, our country has already missed numerous world and continental competitions in this sport," the diplomat noted.
The International Federation of Football Associations announced on February 28, 2022 that Russia’s national teams and all professional clubs representing the country were barred from taking part in FIFA-sanctioned events.
The Union of European Football Associations also decided to exclude the Russian national football team from its UEFA tournaments.
Zakharova called what international sports officials were doing "a modern form of segregation."
"The sanctions hysteria concerning Russian sports and the non-admission of our athletes to international competition is still strong," she stated. "At a time when, it would seem, sports should be used as a tool for developing and strengthening social ties, building mutually respectful communication, and bringing people together, it continues to be used as a tool for settling political scores."
"Russia, on the contrary, stands for the development of international sports cooperation based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination, for providing equal access to sports competitions to all countries without any exceptions," Zakharova stressed. "Despite the outside pressure we will continue holding our own events and participating in major international sports competitions."
Next year, she continued, Russia is set to host the cybersport Games of the Future (between February 21 and March 3 in Kazan), the BRICS Games (on June 11-23 in Kazan) and the World Friendship Games (on September 15-29 in Moscow and Yekaterinburg).
"We will be glad to see all athletes at these competitions, which will be held in the spirit of friendship, mutual understanding, clean and honest rivalry," Zakharova added.