Relations between Russian football and European football have recently reached an impasse. At the height of the crisis, the head of UEFA hinted at the possibility of warming, but we did not see a favorable scenario for Russia. Domestic teams were first excluded from the current season of European competition, and then excommunicated from the next one.
It is not surprising that against the backdrop of unprecedented sanctions, protest moods began to grow in Russia. Experts and fans are already seriously talking about the transition from European football to Asian football, and these rumors, of course, also reach European functionaries.
Not easy after the brutal punishment UEFA unexpectedly gave Russia a positive signal. So, all is not lost yet?
"Cheap political pressure"
The discussion about the European future of Russian clubs has been going on within the walls of UEFA since the beginning of March, when the union decided to exclude Spartak from the Europa League. Even then it became clear that the most serious measures could be taken against our teams. It was rumored that the union could completely exclude the Russian association from its membership, as similar organizations from other sports did.
However, the situation was not hopeless. Firstly, UEFA was in no hurry to take extreme measures: it was not without reason that the organization made a key decision only in May. Secondly, the Russians were quite openly, if not supported, then defended by the head of the union, Aleksander Čeferin. Back in April, the UEFA president spoke clearly about Russia:
- UEFA must show goodwill and demonstrate that the sanctions are not directed against Russian athletes and the Russian people. Footballers don't have to suffer. I don't like cheap political pressure.
Alas, Čeferin failed to save Russian football – if, of course, he tried to do it at all: the European Union suspended Russia from international tournaments for the entire 2022/23 season. In his commentary in April, Alexander stated that he was trying to avoid hypocrisy in the activities of UEFA, but it is difficult to characterize his May statement in any other way:
“It breaks my heart that athletes have to be punished because it’s not their fault. It is not good that they suffer because of this. But on the other hand, in such a situation, we must respond. We could not do otherwise.
UEFA tensed up?
The response to the latest UEFA decision in Russia was the growth of separatist sentiments. Experts seriously began to consider the option of leaving the European Union and joining the Asian one. And it quickly became clear to many: after that, the RFU would have nowhere to retreat. The transition procedure will require a lot of money and time, and the way back, most likely, will be blocked for a long time for the country.
Some fans, however, willingly supported this initiative, despite all the disadvantages of the AFC in comparison with UEFA. National honor and independence turned out to be a priority for the fans - for the sake of them, uncomfortable flights and weak competition can be tolerated.
These conversations, it seems, eventually began to strain the Europeans as well. UEFA's new decision has shown that the union is still ready - and even willing - to cooperate with the Russian side.
It turned out that the Europeans are waiting for representatives of the RFU at the 46th UEFA Congress, which will be held on May 11 in Vienna. In other words, no one is going to exclude Russia from the general dialogue, let alone boycott it or force it to withdraw from the union. In the end, the organization only benefits from the membership of strong countries and teams in it, and Russia, for all its failures, is far from the last place in the continental ranking.
In addition, relations between European and Russian functionaries remain positive, which is far from always true for other sports. The decision of Čeferin and the company is explained by opportunistic necessity - and as soon as the general hysteria subsides, UEFA seems to rehabilitate Russia without any problems.
On the other hand, there is no need to be overly optimistic about this. UEFA has already shown that it puts this very conjuncture above private cooperation, and therefore the gesture of the union may turn out to be a mere flirtation. “We are sorry, but…” - we have already gone through all this “good will”, which means that this time we will judge not by words, but by deeds.