The Russian Football Federation (RFU) is considering the possibility of switching to the Asian Confederation (AFC) following the heavy sanctions imposed by the European Football governing body (UEFA) on the Russian football teams at all levels. Currently, Russian football is banned from featuring in any continental competitions after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
Dmitry Pirog, a member of the Russian parliament, told state-owned sports broadcaster Match TV that the “time has come to seriously think about switching to the Asian football confederation”.
Pirog asked football authorities to consider the future of the Russian teams on the international stage given the fact that UEFA’s ban is not certain to end anytime soon.
UEFA applied new sanctions to Russia, not allowing the country to apply bids for the 2028 and 2032 European championships which they were ready to organize. Also, the Russian men’s national team has been excluded from the Nations League, while the women’s side will not be able to participate in the Euros this summer.
Vyacheslav Koloskov, a former president of the Russian FA, said he was against a move to the Asian Confederation, saying such a decision would mean the “death of Russian football”. “We would never return to the European family,” Koloskov said.
If Russia decides to act and change its confederation participation, it would not be a first in world football. Previously, Israel moved from Asia to UEFA, with Kazakhstan doing the same. Australia went from participating in Oceania to Asia in 2006 in an attempt to raise the level of the opponents the national and club teams were playing in official matches.
Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018, reaching the quarter-finals. They went out after a dramatic penalty shootout against Croatia, the eventual runners-up in the tournament. After invading Ukraine, Russia was banned from competing in all UEFA and FIFA competitions at every level. As a consequence, the men’s national team lost their rights to enter the playoffs for qualification for the Qatar 2022 edition of the World Cup.