“We are not hiding. We have every right to be here,” Alexey Sorokin, a delegate from the Russian Football Union (RFU) said, defending the Union’s presence at the 72nd FIFA congress in Qatar.
Among the 210 members associations attending the event, Russia, represented by two delegates was also present. This was despite FIFA and the Union of European Football Associations banning the Russian national teams and clubs from participating in their respective international competitions.
As a result, Russia were disqualified from qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The ban, however, does not apply to Russia’s football federation, RFU.
The two delegates were the Football Union of Russia’s secretary general Aleksandr Alaev and Alexey Sorokin, who had been head of the 2018 World Cup organising committee.
“We find it kind of strange that the Russian team was not allowed to play in this [World Cup 2022] qualification,” Sorokin noted.
“It’s strange. We feel that our football players and football lovers have nothing to do with [the invasion].”
The Russian delegation at the FIFA Congress made their unapologetic remarks, stating RFU has “every right” to be in the Gulf country, in spite of Moscow’s invasion of Kyiv.
Ukraine was also represented at the congress. A three-minute video was aired at the Congress from the head of Ukraine’s football federation, Andriy Pavelko.
The Ukrainian FA couldn’t make it to Qatar for the FIFA Congress. They’re otherwise engaged (being bombed by the hosts of the last World Cup & its massive army) so they sent a video. The Russian FA could make it to Doha, though, which is nice. pic.twitter.com/NZIVbsNK2C
— Matt Slater (@mjshrimper) March 31, 2022
Whilst wearing an armoured vest and standing in Kyiv, with sandbags located behind him several metres high to protect a monument, Pavelko said “Unfortunately, I cannot be with you today. Since February 24, we have not had the opportunity to develop our beloved game. For over a month, we have been defending our country and resisting the military aggression of the Russian Federation.”
“During this period, we regularly receive sad news about the deaths of Ukrainian football community representatives. They are killed by the aggressor’s bullets and shells, one of the biggest armies in the world. Football has taken a back seat because every day adults and children die in our country,” he added, as reported by Al-Jazeera.
At the event, FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino, who received an Order of Friendship medal from Valdimir Putin in 2019, delivered a message to the Russian leader.
Putin was urged to engage in peace talks and to halt the invasion he initiated in February.
In his speech, Infantino said: “Now that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel [with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic], what happens now? War. War with the fear of a global conflict.”
“The Russia World Cup in 2018 was by all means a great World Cup, sportingly and culturally. But obviously it did not solve the problems of the world. It did not even solve the problems in the region,” he continued.
“We have to learn again to live together. This Congress is a testimony of that.”