The recent suspension of Russian football clubs from international football competitions is no new fate in Asia. As time as proven, this ban would be a heavy blow for the country to take as far as football and sports are concerned. Cities such as Tehran, Yangon, and Pyongyang have their stories to tell, and perhaps Moscow could use them as its mirror of what is to come.
Iran, for instance, has been struggling with the sanctions made against them just before the 2018 World Cup. However, one might argue that measures taken against Iran are way less strict than those taken against Russia. It includes the inability of Swift, an international financial system that facilitates the movement of cash between international accounts, to access Russian banks. While in Iran, there was a concern when Nike could not supply the IFF with boots. In addition, the Iranian Football Federation have also had their fair share of struggles in receiving payments from FIFA and the Asian Football Federation.
In December 2021, Iran Football Federation paid the Iran national team coach significantly late. The sports minister for Iran took the chance to blame the sanctions against Iran as the leading cause. He termed the sanctions as unfair as they made it impossible for FIFA to pay Iran her revenues. He added that they were forced to borrow cash domestically to settle the salaries of the head coach and the players. Being red-flagged by FIFA is a very tricky and frustrating situation. It discourages foreign teams from playing friendlies with local teams and makes it impossible for your national team to play against other countries to compete effectively.
For Iran, things are far worse inside the country football-wise than what’s happening with the national team. Despite having qualified for the FIFA World Cup with games in hand, there are still significant issues that aren’t caused by the sanctioning. It includes the disqualification of the major clubs in the country from the 2022 Asian Champions League due to ownership issues. Over the years, privatization has been one of the most critical steps the government takes on its clubs. However, investors are unwilling to invest in Iranian football simply because there is no return. The slight revenue obtained from broadcast revenue is not only distributed within the football leagues but also the entire sports department.
Still, North Korea has also felt the sting of isolation in Asia. It includes the country’s decision to withdraw from Qatar’s 2022 World Cup. The government decided on another means of approaching international competition. One such product of the system is Han Kwang, who played in Italy. Kwang’s career diminished after FIFA knew that a significant amount of cash was being taken by his home country.
In a country such as Myanmar, very little is being spoken of football after the coup from last year. Football heads in the country are also barely informed on the sanctions. One man, Zaw Zaw, has been on the UK radar for the past decade now. In addition, Yangon club owner, who had also been on the UK radar, has also had his assets, as the UK has found him guilty of supplying weapons to the military, among other things. With his assets hit, it is difficult to speak much of football.
Upon making contact with Eat News, Huddersfield Head of Football, David Webb had several remarks but declined to make a public comment on where the future of football lies for Europe as a whole. This follows a series of sanctions against a couple of Russia’s oligarchs like the infamous Roman Abramovich, who now has the Chelsea club up for grabs for the highest bidder. Most people of influence, non-Russian and non-Ukrainians, have different points of view on the Russia Ukraine aggression but choose to remain neutral in public.
Following the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the probability of Russian going down the same road as the mentioned Asian countries is very high. Both the male and female national teams were suspended from international football. However, Russians claim that what is going on in Ukraine is a unique operation to neutralize threats or what Russia describes as dangerous nationalists. In Ukraine, the national league, has been suspended. However, the Russian primer
league has been resumed and is currently underway after the winter break. Although Russian may not feel the strain of isolation as other countries did; it is implausible that it will be challenging, especially considering the amount of revenue generated from sporting activities. It is difficult to see how FIFA may withdraw the suspension of Russia’s international football teams and clubs. All in all, there are lessons to be learned from these situations. News has it that some Ukrainian citizens were forcefully captured by Russian soldiers, taken to camps, and sent to remote Russian cities. What does this mean for the more than 10 million Ukrainians who fled Ukraine looking for shelter? Only time can tell.
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