Sanctioned Russian football is looking East and weighing its options as next year's season approaches
The Russian Football Union (RFU) is to make a decision on a possible switch from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) by the end of December, according to the union's president, Aleksandr Dyukov.
The RFU is considering the move since they have been unable to participate in major tournaments since February 2022, after FIFA and UEFA indefinitely suspended Russian teams, citing Moscow's military operation in Ukraine. Speaking to the press on Monday, Dyukov commented that "talks with UEFA continue. We have the option, which we will discuss in the first half of December at the executive committee, where we'll consider a possible transfer to Asia."
Dyukov first aired the idea of moving to the Asian Football Confederation in November 2022, in response to the political sanctions on Russia's teams.
The next month, the RFU created a task group to work with the other associations on getting back into official tournaments, and the switch to the East was put on hold.
"Officially, we can change confederations on our own," Dyukov said to media in September, but went on to say that the unofficial go-ahead from UEFA, in practice, was required.
"Is there a point to switching, if we won't be allowed to the World Cup qualifying matches? This is what demands consideration. To take part in the World Cup qualifiers, we need confirmation and agreement from FIFA, and we don't have that yet."
In October 2023, UEFA briefly considered lifting the suspension on Russian under-17 teams, arguing that "children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults," but soon afterward U-turned on the decision. A number of football federations - including those of England, Latvia, and Lithuania, stated at the time that their teams will not play against Russians even if the ban was lifted.
The Russian national team, meanwhile, has played eight friendly matches this year, including against Iran and Iraq, twice against Egypt, and once each versus Qatar, Cameroon, Kenya and most recently Cuba on Monday, winning 8-0.