Soccer-Ukraine set to boycott competitions involving Russia as UEFA lifts U-17 ban

FILE PHOTO: A security guard stands on the roof of the headquarters of the Union Europenne de Football Amateur (UEFA) before an Excecutive Committee meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine has said it will not play in tournaments involving Russian teams after European soccer governing body, UEFA, announced plans to reinstate Russia's Under-17 sides to European competitions.

In a statement released late on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) urged UEFA to reconsider its decision and urged other countries not to play against Russian teams.

UEFA decided after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that all Russian teams - national or club sides - would be suspended from participation in its competitions.

But UEFA said on Tuesday that "children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults", and that Russian U-17 sides would be readmitted to UEFA competitions "in the course of this season".

"UAF strongly condemns today's UEFA decision on the return of U-17 teams from the Russian Federation to international competitions," the UAF said, urging UEFA to stick to its blanket ban on Russian teams.

"UAF confirms that we will not take part in any competitions with the participation of Russian teams, and appeal to other UEFA member associations to boycott possible matches with the participation of teams from the Russian Federation, subject to their admission."

It said the return of Russian teams to competitions "in the midst of hostilities conducted by the Russian Federation against Ukraine is groundless and such that it tolerates Russia's aggressive policy."

England's Football Association reacted to UEFA's decision on Tuesday by saying its youth teams would not play against Russia.

The U-17 men's European Championship finals will be held in Cyprus next year, while the women's tournament will take place in May 2024 in Sweden, who said the Russian team will not be allowed to participate if they qualify.

"It is the opinion of the Executive Board that Swedish national teams (senior and youth) should continue to not play matches against Russia, neither in Sweden nor abroad," the Swedish Football Association said.

Polish Football Association president Cezary Kulesza said he was 'surprised' by UEFA's decision.

"If Russian national teams are allowed to participate in the competition, our national teams will not compete with them. This is the only right decision," Kulesza said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ukraine's sports ministry has barred Ukrainian national sports associations from sending delegations to compete at events where Russians or Belarusians were competing. Belarus let its territory be used as a launchpad for Russia's invasion.

Ukraine's football association subsequently clarified that its senior team would continue to participate in qualifiers for Euro 2024, despite the fact that the Belarusian team is competing in a separate qualifying group.

(Reporting by Max Hunder, additional reporting by Rohith Nair; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Christian Radnedge)

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