SPORT: Football
FIFA bans Russian flag and anthem at matches.

FIFA has ordered Rus­sia to play match­es with­out its flag and anthem at neu­tral venues, warn­ing that the coun­try could be exclud­ed from com­pe­ti­tions if the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine does not improve.

Sun­day’s announce­ments, which FIFA called “imme­di­ate first steps,” were quick­ly crit­i­cized as insuf­fi­cient by Euro­pean nations, however.

FIFA, which con­demned “the use of force by Rus­sia in its inva­sion of Ukraine,” said no inter­na­tion­al soc­cer match­es would be played in Rus­sia, and the coun­try’s flag and anthem would be banned from all their for­eign matches.

The world gov­ern­ing body said the nation­al team would not com­pete as Rus­sia but as the Russ­ian Foot­ball Union (RFU), and that all “home” match­es would be played with­out fans on “neu­tral territory.”

But the head of the Pol­ish Foot­ball Asso­ci­a­tion, Cezary Kulesza, crit­i­cized FIFA’s posi­tion and called for Rus­si­a’s expul­sion from the World Cup.

“Today’s deci­sion by FIFA is total­ly unac­cept­able. We are not inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing in this game of appear­ances. Our posi­tion remains intact: the Pol­ish nation­al team will not play with Rus­sia, regard­less of the name of the team,” he wrote on Twitter.

“If FIFA’s human rights pol­i­cy is more than just words on paper, now is the time to put it into effect, by exclud­ing the Russ­ian Foot­ball Asso­ci­a­tion from qual­i­fy­ing for the World Cup in Qatar in 2022,” he added in a statement.

If Rus­sia wins, it would then host the win­ners of a match between the Czech Repub­lic and Swe­den on March 29.

The draw for the World Cup finals, which will be held in Qatar in Novem­ber and Decem­ber, is set for April 1.

The Czech Repub­lic and Swe­den have also said they will not play the Russians.

The pres­i­dent of the Swedish fed­er­a­tion Karl-Erik Nils­son, senior vice pres­i­dent of UEFA, told the web­site Fot­boll­skanalen that he was not sat­is­fied with the deci­sion of FIFA with a “clear­er posi­tion” expected.

The Czechs said FIFA’s com­pro­mise did not change their deci­sion not to play Russia.

FIFA said it would try to find a solu­tion with the three coun­tries involved in the World Cup qualifiers.

“[FIFA] is already in dia­logue with all these soc­cer asso­ci­a­tions. FIFA will remain in close con­tact to seek appro­pri­ate and accept­able solu­tions togeth­er,” the state­ment said.

The Eng­lish Foot­ball Asso­ci­a­tion also said its nation­al team would not play any match­es against Rus­sia “for the fore­see­able future.”

“In sol­i­dar­i­ty with Ukraine and in unre­served con­dem­na­tion of the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the Russ­ian lead­er­ship, the FA can con­firm that we will not play Rus­sia in any inter­na­tion­al match for the fore­see­able future. This includes any poten­tial match at any level.

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