Soccer-UEFA set to reinstate Russian youth teams

(Reuters) – UEFA will explore options for Russia’s youth teams to return to competition for the first time since the country’s invasion of Ukraine, European soccer’s governing body said on Tuesday following its Executive Committee’s meeting in Limassol, Cyprus.

Following the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, UEFA decided in February 2022 that all Russian teams – national or club sides – would be suspended from participation in their competitions.

UEFA also cancelled its partnership with Russian energy company Gazprom.

In a statement on Tuesday, UEFA said it was “aware that children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults…

“For these reasons, the UEFA Executive Committee has decided that Russian teams of minor players will be readmitted to its competitions in the course of this season.

“The Executive Committee has asked the UEFA administration to propose a technical solution that would enable the reinstatement of the Russian U17 teams (both girls and boys) even when draws have already been held.”

UEFA added that Russian teams’ matches would be played outside Russia and would not feature the country’s flag, anthem or national kit.

“… by banning children from our competitions, we not only fail to recognise and uphold a fundamental right for their holistic development but we directly discriminate against them,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said.

UEFA also announced Armand Duka as successor to former Spanish Federation (RFEF) boss Luis Rubiales.

Rubiales stepped down as a vice president of the soccer body after kissing player Jenni Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s World Cup victory last month, which caused an uproar among players and fans.

Duka is head of Albania’s soccer federation and has been a member of UEFA’s Executive Committee since 2019.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)