Former host Russia frozen out as World Cup begins in Qatar

Nov 13, 2022, 5:30 PM | Updated: Nov 14, 2022, 8:17 am
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin touches the World Cup trophy as FIFA President Gianni Infan...

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin touches the World Cup trophy as FIFA President Gianni Infantino stands beside him, at the end of the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Russia hosted the World Cup party in 2018 but now it's off the guest list. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

(AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

              FILE - Players of Russia react during the penalty shootout of the round of 16 match between Spain and Russia at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Monday, July 2, 2018. Russia hosted the World Cup party in 2018 but now it's off the guest list. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
              FILE - Russia's Artyom Dzyuba celebrates after scoring his sides 1st goal from the penalty spot during the round of 16 match between Spain and Russia at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 1, 2018. Russia hosted the World Cup party in 2018 but now it's off the guest list.(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)

Four years after Vladimir Putin hosted the World Cup party, Russia is off the guest list.

While the soccer world focuses on the opening game of the World Cup in Qatar on Sunday, Russia will be playing a friendly game in Uzbekistan.

Russia was kicked out of World Cup qualifying after it invaded Ukraine and now can only play friendlies against the few nations prepared to accept its invitations.

The Russian men’s national team’s only game of 2022 so far was a 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan in September. Russian clubs are barred from the Champions League and the women’s national team was removed from the European Championship.

Monday marked one year since the last competitive game of the Russian men’s national team, a 1-0 loss at Croatia on a swampy, waterlogged field. That meant Russia didn’t qualify for the World Cup directly and went into the playoffs. By the time those came around, Russia had invaded Ukraine.

Russia’s scheduled opponent, Poland, refused to travel to Moscow to play, as did the other teams in the playoff bracket. That raised the prospect of Russia qualifying for the World Cup by default. In legal battles at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, FIFA argued that letting Russia compete could cause more boycotts and “irreparable and chaotic” damage to its tournament. CAS let the ban stand.

Games against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina were planned for November but neither is taking place. Instead, Russia is touring two former Soviet nations to play Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The planned Iran game would have given Russia the credibility of facing a team which has qualified for the World Cup. Ukraine accuses Russia of using Iranian drones to attack its cities, something Russia denies. Ukraine asked FIFA to remove Iran from the tournament, though FIFA has not done so.

The president of the Russian soccer federation told local media that the game with Iran could be held in Qatar shortly before the World Cup. That could have been seen as a snub to FIFA. No date or venue was ever confirmed before Russia announced the Tajikistan and Uzbekistan games instead.

Putin endorsed plans for a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina in September, saying that “sport should unite, not divide, people.” That game was postponed indefinitely by the Bosnian soccer federation last month, after team captain Edin Dzeko and the national players’ union opposed the game and expressed support for Ukraine.

Russia still has friends in the World Cup host nation. Qatar’s emir thanked Russia in October for its “great support” for organizing the World Cup when he met Putin for talks at a summit in Kazakhstan.

“We are also doing everything we can in terms of transferring the experience of preparing for the World Cup,” the Russian president said.

What exactly Russia’s support for Qatar involves is unclear, but Qatari officials have shown interest in the tight security around Russian games in 2018. For the first time at a World Cup, it included a mandatory “Fan ID” scheme. A ticket on its own wasn’t enough to enter the stadium. Fans provided personal data to get an ID card needed to pass stadium security, which also doubled as a visa to enter the country. The same is true of Qatar’s similar Hayya Card program.

There are more similarities.

Both Russia and Qatar were awarded their World Cups in a 2010 vote overshadowed by allegations of corruption.

Both nations also faced scrutiny over the working conditions for people involved in World Cup construction projects, including migrant workers. Activists accused Russia of unpaid wages, workplace deaths and unsafe conditions, including people being required to work in temperatures far below freezing.

Four years after the World Cup in Russia, there is tension between the government and soccer fans. The government has expanded its Fan ID scheme from the World Cup to cover league games within Russia, sparking a furious response from many fans. Groups of hardcore fans of Russia’s biggest clubs have been boycotting games rather than sign up for an ID.

Attendances for Russian league games average less than 11,000 this season. That’s a third lower than in the pre-pandemic 2018-19 season and less than the average for the Swiss and Portuguese leagues. It also means thousands of empty seats at many stadiums built for the 2018 World Cup.

Russian clubs have also seen key players — including Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, now at Napoli — move abroad for no transfer fee under a FIFA ruling that allows them to suspend their contracts during the war.

When the group stage at the World Cup gets going in earnest next Monday, eight Russian clubs will be busy at the Court of Arbitration for Sport trying to overturn that transfer ruling.


AP World Cup coverage: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Florida Panthers center Sam Reinhart (13) is mobbed by teammates after he scored during an overtime...
Associated Press

Reinhart scores 17 seconds into OT, Panthers beat Bruins 4-3

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Sam Reinhart scored 17 seconds into overtime to cap a late scoring flurry and give the Florida Panthers a 4-3 victory over the NHL-leading Boston Bruins on Saturday night. After David Pastrnak scored to give the Bruins the lead with 48.6 seconds left in regulation, Florida captain Aleksander Barkov tied it […]
18 hours ago
Max Homa watches his tee shot on the second hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines during the fin...
Associated Press

Max Homa comes from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Southern California native Max Homa came from five shots off the lead to win the Farmers Insurance Open by two strokes over Keegan Bradley on Saturday at Torrey Pines, where Jon Rahm imploded early and missed a shot at winning his third straight start and moving to No. 1 in the […]
18 hours ago
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, left, and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson fight for a loose b...
Associated Press

Irving has 32 points, Nets beat Knicks for 9th straight time

NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 21 of his 32 points in the final 9 1/2 minutes, carrying the Brooklyn Nets to their ninth straight victory over the New York Knicks, 122-115 on Saturday. Irving’s sixth straight game of 30 or more points gave him a career high and the Nets an NBA franchise […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin reacts after a play during the first half of the team's NF...
Associated Press

Hamlin thankful, speaks publicly for 1st time in video

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Damar Hamlin released a video Saturday in which he says he’s thankful for the outpouring of support and vows to pay it back, marking the first time the Buffalo Bills safety has spoken publicly since he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati […]
18 hours ago
Hofstra guard Tyler Thomas (23) dribbles while guarded by Charleston guard Reyne Smith (2) during t...
Associated Press

Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak. Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Chicago Sky's Candace Parker starts a fast break during Game 1 of the team's WNBA basketball...
Associated Press

Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces. Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles […]
18 hours ago
Former host Russia frozen out as World Cup begins in Qatar