Amidst speculations of leaving UEFA to join AFC, Russia to compete in South Asian U-17 women’s championship

After almost a year away from international football, Russia will make a comeback next month – in a South Asian competition.

The country, which has so far competed as a part of Europe in tournaments organised by UEFA, will be competing in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship for under-17 women, scheduled to be held in Dhaka from March 20-28.

The development comes amidst speculations of Russia leaving the European confederation and joining Asia after its teams were banned by IDEA following the invasion of Ukraine last February.

SAFF is a sub-confederation within the Asian Football Confederation and has India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal as member nations.

Earlier this week, SAFF announced the decision on social media. “We are delighted to announce that Russia will be competing in SAFF U17 Women’s Championship 2023…” a statement read.

Last year, Russian Football Union president Aleksander Dyukov said switching from UEFA to AFC was an option for the country as the national team and clubs try to return to the international fold. The move, however, could be resisted by Asian nations as it will only increase the level of competition in an already-tough region.

The move to allow a Russian team to play in South Asia is in continuation of the efforts to include athletes from the country in Asian events, with the Olympic Council of Asia inviting Russian athletes to compete in its events, including the Asian Games this year.

India is scheduled to host the men’s senior SAFF Championship in June this year and it remains to be seen if Russia will be invited to compete in the tournament.

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