French Football Federation president calls for Russia to be excluded from World Cup
French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has called for Russia to be excluded from the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, following weeks of rising political tensions in the region. The conflict escalated further on Friday, with the fighting reaching the capital city of Kyiv. There was intense fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, on Sunday.
France won the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, beating Croatia 4-2 in the final in Moscow.
Russia had been set to host Poland in a qualifying playoff in March, but on Friday, UEFA said any international matches due to be held in Russia or Ukraine would have to be moved to a neutral venue, as well as confirming St Petersburg had been stripped of holding this season's Champions League final, which will now be played in Paris.
That followed a request from the Polish, Swedish and Czech FAs that Russia be barred from hosting any upcoming World Cup qualifiers. The winner of the tie between Poland and Russia would have been due to play either Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place at Qatar 2022. The decision regarding where the qualifiers are played and whether Russia can remain a part of them ultimately rests with FIFA.
Speaking to Le Parisien on Sunday, Le Graet believes football has a duty to act, and said he "would not oppose" removing Russia from the tournament.
"This is something that I have not yet discussed with other federations," he said. "I lean for an exclusion of Russia from the next World Cup. This is my first impulse.
"Usually, I believe that sport is there to reconcile people and ease tensions, but this is going much too far.
"And the world of sport, and in particular football, cannot remain neutral. I will certainly not oppose an exclusion of Russia."