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.


Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives against Phoenix Suns forward Josh Okogie (2) during ...
Associated Press

Doncic, Mavericks preserve big lead, roll past Suns 130-111

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 33 points, Spencer Dinwiddie added 21 and the Dallas Mavericks preserved a big lead against the Phoenix Suns this time in a 130-111 victory on Monday night. The Mavericks remained in control after a 28-8 run covering most of the last 10 minutes of the first quarter while ending […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Calmese scores 31 as Lamar beats Our Lady of the Lake 91-56

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — Nate Calmese’s 31 points led Lamar over Our Lady of the Lake 91-56 on Monday night. Calmese had five assists and five steals for the Cardinals (4-5). Cody Pennebaker scored 21 points while shooting 8 for 15, including 4 for 7 from beyond the arc, and added eight rebounds. Jakevion Buckley […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Kennesaw State knocks off Charleston Southern, 76-65

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Chris Youngblood had 16 points in Kennesaw State’s 76-65 victory against Charleston Southern on Monday night. Youngblood shot 4 for 9 (3 for 5 from 3-point range) and 5 of 5 from the free throw line for the Owls (6-3). Demond Robinson added 10 points while going 5 of 8 […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Gapare scores 15 off bench, UMass beats Albany (NY) 87-73

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Tafara Gapare scored 15 points off of the bench to lead UMass over Albany (NY) 87-73 on Monday night. Gapare had five steals for the Minutemen (7-1). Isaac Kante was 5 of 5 shooting and 4 of 4 from the free throw line to add 14 points. Keon Thompson recorded 13 […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Western Michigan defeats Concordia (MI) 94-50

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — Markeese Hastings had 22 points in Western Michigan’s 94-50 victory over Concordia (MI) on Monday night. Hastings added 17 rebounds for the Broncos (3-6). Tray Maddox Jr. scored 22 points and added five rebounds. Seth Hubbard shot 4 for 9, including 4 for 6 from beyond the arc to finish with […]
20 hours ago
Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) handles the ball ahead of Miami Heat forward Caleb Mar...
Associated Press

Jones’ career-high 28 points lead Grizzlies past Heat 101-93

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tyus Jones had a career-high 28 points and 10 assists to lead the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies a 101-93 victory over Miami Heat on Monday night. Santi Aldama added 18 points and Dillon Brooks finished with 17 for Memphis, which played without leading scorer Ja Morant and several other key players. Tyler […]
20 hours ago
Former host Russia frozen out as World Cup begins in Qatar