The Russian Football Union (RFU) governing body has voted against leaving UEFA to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) despite being banned from competitions organized by the European governing body because of Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
The move comes after RFU members debated withdrawing the body's membership from UEFA to join the AFC last month, having been sanctioned by the European governing body and world governing body FIFA over the ongoing war with Ukraine.
RFU vice president Akhmed Aydamirov said: “We will fight for Europe. Russia is Europe. We will win.
“We decided that will not move to Asia. Everyone supported the decision unanimously.”
Mikhail Gershokvich, a member of the RFU, told state-run news agency RIA Novosti that members voted against leaving Europe as there were no guarantees from FIFA that it would be allowed to switch to Asia.
He said RFU would continue discussing the issue with UEFA, adding: “Let’s see how the situation develops next year.”
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Russian teams have been banned from taking part in European and FIFA competitions since the country invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Since then, the Russian national team has played friendlies against Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as Iran and Iraq. The national team was also invited to compete in the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) Championship in June but declined to participate.
While 75% of Russia is in Asia, historically the country has been part of Europe at an administrative level, and its capital and major cities sit on the European side of the continental divide, meaning it has always played under the membership of a European association.
Had the RFU decided to join the Asian Football Confederation, it would have been able to return to international competition – but at a lower economic and sporting level due to Russian clubs withdrawing from lucrative UEFA club competitions including the Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League. It would also not have been able to compete in UEFA’s national team competitions including the Nations League and the European Championship.