Former host Russia frozen out as World Cup begins in Qatar
Tens of millions of Russians turned out on Sunday to watch the World Cup that began on Tuesday, an unlikely fan base cheering the country’s hopes to make a deep run in the competition for the first time in 17 years. But while the Russian team, featuring many of the country’s most famous football players, has managed one goal in four qualifying matches, fans have been kept in the dark as to the fate of the national team.
According to a recent report by the Associated Press, the team’s entire roster has been suspended until at least the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Two Russians are currently being investigated by FIFA over links to match-fixing: Aleksandr Berezovoi and Aleksandr Zinchenko, who made racist abuse videos during their World Cup play-off against the Ivory Coast last March.
In an April interview on Russia’s NTV television show “Sportbox”, the team was introduced as “Finns from Moscow” and there was a brief discussion on the team’s new identity.
“I think for the international community we’re a football team, an unofficial one. I believe we’re not the team that will win the tournament, nor we will reach the semifinals, which is quite realistic — but I think that’s our goal. There are various things we have to sort of polish, and that’s why we’re trying to keep this game fresh. Even though the pressure is a little bit higher right now than usually, I think it’s normal, we’re all human beings and we have to go through these difficulties.”
On Friday, the Russian FA announced that “the Russian Football Union will not make any official statements on the status of the Russian team, nor the national team team.” They also announced a three-month suspension for the team, but a few hours later did make an announcement of a suspension for both Berezovoi and Zinchenko, who were initially banned by FIFA and served a six-game ban but were later cleared to play by a separate disciplinary tribunal.
However, the decision by the Russian FA to suspend the team means that the Russian