FIFA and the European football confederation UEFA are suspending Russia's soccer teams from participating in all competitions because of its invasion of Ukraine, a move that will make it nearly impossible for its men's team to compete in the 2022 World Cup, the organizations announced Monday.
The joint decision by two of soccer's most powerful governing bodies comes after growing protests from other countries' federations and those in the sports community. The Russian men's national team was due to play Poland on March 24 in a UEFA World Cup qualifying match, with the victor going on to play the winner of a game between Sweden and the Czech Republic. All three countries were refusing to play Russia because of the war in Ukraine.
Earlier on Monday, the International Olympic Committee urged sporting events organizers to exclude Russia as well as Belarus from competition. The US Soccer Federation also denounced Russia's actions in Ukraine, saying in a statement that it would not be "taking the same field as Russia, no matter the level of competition or circumstance, until freedom and peace have been restored."
Monday's decision means that Russia's women's national team will also now be blocked from participating in 2023 World Cup qualifying matches in April and the European Championships this summer. The ban also affects Russian club teams.
"Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine," FIFA said in a statement. "Both presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people."
It was a rare move for the notorious global soccer organization, which came under fire in 2015 after US prosecutors uncovered a massive corruption scandal that showed FIFA officials engaged in vote-rigging and accepted bribes and kickbacks at nearly every level of the game, including in exchange for awarding hosting rights for the World Cup.
Over the weekend, as intense fighting raged in Ukraine's capital of Kyiv, FIFA originally refused to ban Russian teams from competition and instead proposed prohibitions on the use of the country's name, anthem, and flag at matches.