Doubts Over Russia Participation as CAFA Championship Set to Reveal Line-Up

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Russia are reportedly set to shun the first-ever Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) Championship – but organisers insist they are still in talks with them over their participation.

According to Russian newspaper Sport-Express, the men’s national team are “highly likely” to refuse to compete in the inaugural event, due to be staged from June 9 to 21 in Bishkek and Tashkent – the respective capitals of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

The CAFA has announced that the teams participating in the tournament will be revealed next week.

Co-hosts Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are expected to feature along with Tajikistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and one other Asian country but there is uncertainty of Russia’s inclusion.

“Next week we will announce the list of participants in the championship. So far, everything is in the process,” the CAFA told Russia’s official state news agency TASS.

“Negotiations are underway with the teams, including the Russian team.”

Russia faced Iraq last month in what was their first home match since November 2021 ©Getty Images
Russia faced Iraq last month in what was their first home match since November 2021 ©Getty Images

Alisher Urunov, vice-president of the Football Federation of Tajikistan, claimed last month that the presence of Russia would help raise awareness of the CAFA Championship.

Russia has been blocked from UEFA and FIFA for more than a year since the invasion of Ukraine, leading to its expulsion from qualification playoffs for last year’s World Cup in Qatar and the Women’s European Championship in England.

Its national teams were also removed from qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the men’s UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany, and clubs are unable to participate in continental competitions, including the UEFA Champions League.

The Russian Football Union had considered transferring its affiliation to the Asian Football Confederation, but that proposal appears to have been shelved in favour of talks with UEFA through a Working Group over a return to European competitions.

Russia’s men’s national team have played five friendly matches against teams from Asia since the invasion of Ukraine, including a home victory over Iraq.

Source : Inside The Games