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FIFA allows Russian soccer teams play in its Under-17 World Cups if they qualify

GENEVA (AP) —

FIFA approved the possible reintegration of Russian youth teams into its competitions on Wednesday and eased a total ban on the country in international soccer amid the war in Ukraine.

The decision by the FIFA Council followed eight days after European soccer body UEFA provoked a rare split among its own executive committee and member federations by welcoming back Russian national teams for boys and girls into its competitions.

FIFA's decision means Russian teams can play in its Under-17 World Cups, but only if they advance through UEFA-run qualifying formats. Any Russian youth team in its competitions would play under the name “Football Union of Russia” rather than “Russia,” FIFA said.

Qualifying groups for the next European Under-17 Championship for boys and girls start this month.

FIFA had the option of continuing to enforce its own blanket ban on Russian teams which was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

FIFA and UEFA moved within days of Russia invading Ukraine in February 2022 to ban the country's national and club teams from international soccer competitions. Future opponents of Russian national teams, including Poland, Sweden and Switzerland, had already refused to play those games.

When Russia's soccer federation appealed to CAS, the court accepted the argument from FIFA and UEFA that they had a duty to organize competitions with security and integrity free from chaos.

With the war showing no signs of ending, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has signaled wanting to restore Russian teams into youth competitions. They would play without their flag, anthem, national colors and only in away games.

UEFA said children should not be punished "for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults,” and its staff will look at finding groups that Russian U17 teams can play in. The UEFA executive committee will meet again on Tuesday and is expected to get an update on the process of reintegration.

The UEFA position — and the fresh FIFA stance — is against International Olympic Committee advice that governing bodies should continue blocking Russia from team sports while looking to let approved individuals compete with neutral status.

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