FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called on a one-month ‘World Cup ceasefire’ in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Infantino was speaking to world leaders at the G20 summit in Bali, just days before the tournament gets underway in Qatar.
It has been nearly nine months since Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s invasion of Ukraine – with no signs that the conflict will stop anytime soon.
The Russians were due to take part in a play-off with Poland earlier this year to make the World Cup, only to be banned from the competition by FIFA.
Monday marked a year since Russia last played a competitive game, with the nation also thrown out of the Nations League and banned from the upcoming qualifying process for the 2024 European Championships.
Infantino in his plea called on world leaders to everything they can to put an end to the conflict.
He said: ‘Football is a force for good. Of course we are not naive to believe football can solve the world’s problems – for this, you are there.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called on a ceasefire in Russia’s conflict of Ukraine during the World Cup in Qatar, with the tournament set to get underway on Sunday
It has been nearly nine months to the day that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s invasion of Ukraine, with no sign that the conflict will stop anytime soon
‘We know our main focus as a sport’s organisation is and should be sports. But because football unites the world, this World Cup, with five billion people watching it can be a trigger for a positive gesture for a sign or message of hope.
‘Russia hosted the last World Cup in 2018. Ukraine is bidding to host the World Cup in 2030. Maybe current World Cup starting in five days can be a positive trigger.
‘So my plea for all of you is to think on a temporary ceasefire for one month for the duration of the World Cup or at least some humanitarian corridors or anything that could lead to the resumption of dialogue as a first step to peace.
‘You are the world leaders, you have the ability to influence the course of history. Football and the World Cup is offering you and the world a unique platform of unity and peace so let’s take this opportunity to do everything we can to start putting an end to all conflicts.’
Russia and Putin are off the guestlist as the Word Cup gets underway on Sunday.
Despite being kicked out of the tournament, Qatar’s emir thanked Russia and its president for helping the Gulf nation organise this year’s World Cup, and said he is ‘proud’ of the countries’ relationship.
Russia were banned from the World Cup and have not played a competitive game in any competition since their 1-0 defeat to Croatia on November 14, 2021 – over a year ago
At a summit in Kazakhstan last month, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said to Putin: ‘After Russia made a great success in organising the 2018 World Cup, Russian friends have provided great support to Qatar, especially in organisation, for the World Cup.
‘We thank you for this and we are proud of this relationship. This will continue until the end of the World Cup. I’m very happy to see you, Mr President. Thank you.’
On the same day that hosts Qatar open the tournament against Ecuador, Russia will play away against Uzbekistan – three days after travelling to Tajikistan.
Their match with Tajikistan will be just their second game at all since their 1-0 defeat to Croatia in the World Cup qualifiers on November 14, 2021.
They beat Krygyzstan 2-1 in a friendly in September – but are still yet to play a game in Russia.
Russian clubs are also barred from European club competitions while the women’s national team was removed from the European Championship.
Their scheduled opponent in the World Cup play-offs, Poland, refused to travel to Moscow to play – as did other teams in the play-off 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.
Games against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina were planned for November but are now touring two former soviet nations in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Infantino pictured with Russian president Putin when the country hosted the 2018 tournament
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.
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.
As the World Cup group stage plays out next Monday, eight Russian clubs will be busy at the Court of Arbitration for Sport trying to overturn that transfer ruling.