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UEFA boss Ceferin defends sanctions against Russia

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has named “unprecedented sanctions” against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine a necessity because “the tradition of sporting neutrality is no longer tenable in 2022 in the situation of war.”
Ceferin told Wednesday’s UEFA Congress in Vienna that football was one of the losers owing to the wide-ranging sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus but that the continental body had no choice but to “leave its comfort zone” and act. “Football is undoubtedly the loser, one of the losers, since we are depriving players, coaches and supporters, who have nothing to do with the current situation, of their passion and their dreams,” he said.
“But when UEFA issues unprecedented sanctions, football is trying to make its own tiny contribution to society and Europe’s leaders as they strive for peace on our continent,” he said. “Promoting football in Europe in a spirit of peace, that is also a statutory objective of UEFA.
“It may be seen as a dangerous precedent, but in this case the cause is greater than anything else. The cause is greater than the careers of a few hundred footballers and the tradition of sporting neutrality that is no longer tenable in 2022 in the situation of war,” he said.
Ceferin expressed hope that “reason prevails as quickly as possible and that order is restored, and that we have peace, for the good not only of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, but also our Russian brothers and sisters, who we hope they will be back with us in the very near future.” UEFA has banned Russian and Belarusian clubs and national teams from all of its events and stripped St Petersburg of hosting this year’s Champions League final.
But it has not suspended the Russian federation RFU which was present in Vienna led by general secretary Alexander Alayev while the Ukrainian delegation joined the congress via video link.
However, Ceferin told reporters after the congress that he “wouldn’t rule out anything” when asked about a possible RFU suspension in the future, adding “it is too early to speak about it” and hoping that the war ends as soon as possible.
Ukraine federation president Andriy Pavelko said in an emotional live broadcast from a destroyed stadium in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv that because of the war he did not have “the moral right” to leave the country for the Vienna Congress.
“The Ukrainian football community is saving lives, saving the lives of children,” he said through a translator.
“Behind me you can see the stadium that was hit. You can see that the playing field has been completely destroyed. We have been bombed, today as well in the region.” Ukraine’s national team was meanwhile played its first game since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 later Wednesday, defeating German Bundesliga club Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1.
Ukraine face a World Cup play-off semi-final on June 1 in Scotland, with the winner playing Wales for a place at the finals in Qatar.