Russia’s national teams have not played competitive international football since last year

The Russian U-17 Women’s team will be participating in the upcoming SAFF U-17 Women’s Championship next month. In a rather stunning development, the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) has accepted Russia’s request to play in their confederation.

FIFA and UEFA both banned Russia from all international football since their invasion of Ukraine last year. Since then, the Russian football national teams have not been able to play any competitive international football. However, the SAFF is giving them a chance to get back to competing on the international stage.

Russian U-17 Women’s Team to play in SAFF U-17 Championship

The Russian U-17 Women’s team will be allowed to play in the competition. The SAFF U-17 Championship 2023 will happen in Dhaka, Bangladesh from March 20-28. This was surprisingly announced by the federation on Instagram through their match schedule for the tournament.

The India U-17 Women’s team will also participate in it. They will be facing the Russian team on March 28, which will be their final game of the competition. The competition will be based on a league (round-robin) format. The team with the highest number of points shall be announced as the champions.

The last time the Russia U-17 women’s team played in a cup competition was back in 2016. They lost all their three qualifying matches for the 2016 UEFA Championship. The Russian side was banned from participating in the 2022 UEFA Women’s U17 championship – which was won by Germany.

History of SAFF U-17 Women’s Championship and Russian side

This interesting inclusion of a European team for the SAFF U-17 Women’s championship will be a first in the tournament’s short history. The tournament took place for the first time last year, being held in Sri Lanka. India U-17 Women’s team won that edition, getting some momentum before the U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Russia’s U-17 Women’s team has not ever played in an official competition for any federation besides UEFA. They’ve never qualified for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup or played anywhere else.

This is claimed to be a ploy from Russia to make themselves a part of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) going forward. This will also allow their national teams to play in AFC competitions  – including the AFC Asian Cup.

SAFF covers the South Asia football nations. The likes of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka play in it. Russia does not share any problems with these nations and has coherent diplomatic relations with many Asian nations even after their invasion of Ukraine.

The SAFF did not make a comment when Reuters raised an inquiry over their decision to add Russia for the upcoming competition. Irrespective of whatever happens, the India U-17 side are training hard for it as they aim to make it back-to-back wins next month.

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