UEFA set to reinstate Russian youth teams into competitions

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 football's governing body said on Tuesday following its Executive Committee's meeting in Limassol, Cyprus.

Following the invasion, world football's governing body FIFA and 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.

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Ukraine late on Tuesday said via statement that it will not play in tournaments involving Russian teams and the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) urged UEFA to reconsider its decision and urged other countries not to play against Russian teams.

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.

Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA president, said that "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."

After the announcement, England's FA responded, saying that it would not allow Young Lions teams to play against their Russian counterparts.

"We do not support the position of readmitting Russia to UEFA Age Grade Competitions, and our position remains that England teams won't play against Russia," an FA spokesperson told Reuters.

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.

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

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

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