A sign with the logo of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency is on display in Moscow. Photo: Reuters
A sign with the logo of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency is on display in Moscow. Photo: Reuters

Russia wearing a FIFA kit? WADA ban leaves questions for football

Time of article published Dec 10, 2019

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BERLIN  If Russia qualify for the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar, it appears that each individual player will have to prove he is clean of doping and the team cannot be known as Russia.

No Russian flag can fly officially in Qatar and the Russian anthem will be banned. It follows that Russia would not be able to wear their normal kit. FIFA would have to provide a special kit for the "Football Team from Russia".

What kit would that be? The only official FIFA kit we see at World Cups is for match officials. Would Russian players have to dress up like referees?

There are so many questions hanging over Russian football, and indeed other team sports, following the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) decision on Monday to ban Russia from all major sporting events for four years.

No one really knows how it is all going to pan out, and Russia is also set to appeal.

"FIFA is in contact with WADA and (the Olympic summer sports organization) ASOIF to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football," said a spokesperson for world football's governing body FIFA.

The suspension was levied after evidence of tampering with Moscow anti-doping lab data before it was handed over to WADA as part of a probe into state-sponsored doping practices, which had already led to bans in athletics and at the 2018 Winter Games.

A look at those Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea gives us some of an idea what a football World Cup with Russia banned as a nation might look like.

Many Russians, who had previously demonstrated they had not been involved in doping, did compete in Pyeongchang but as "Olympic Athletes from Russia". The Olympic flag not the Russian flag was paraded at the ceremonies and indeed lifted when Russians won gold.

There was no Russian anthem and instead the Olympic anthem was played, while a special logo for a special kit was also used.

But FIFA does not really have a famous flag like the five rings. Its flag is just the word FIFA on a blue background.

There is also no recognized FIFA anthem unlike the Olympics. One does exist, but few football fans know what it is.

Each World Cup generally gets its own official song, so maybe this would be used instead when the "Football Team from Russia" or some other convoluted name plays.

Of course Russia have to qualify for the 2022 World Cup first and this is where it gets interesting. Qualification is run by the European football governing body UEFA.

WADA does not see UEFA as a major event federation, implying that Russia could stay as Russia during qualification but would then have to switch to neutral status in Qatar.

This brings us on to football's Euro 2020. Russia have already qualified and indeed are one of 12 host nations, with St. Petersburg holding four games next June and July.

But because UEFA is not a major event federation given it is just a regional governing body, Russia can compete as themselves and still host the matches. One of WADA's other sanctions was that Russia could not hold a "major" event in the four years.

UEFA said in a statement it "appears" Euro 2020 is not affected by the ban.

It will take a few weeks before the world of football truly understands the implication of WADA's decision for Russia.


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