Russia’s national soccer team looks set to play meaningful games once again this summer in an Asian tournament. Since February 2022, FIFA banned the nation from official competition under the FIFA umbrella. However, now it seems as if Russia will be playing in an Asian tournament in June.

The Central Asian Football Association Championships launch this summer, and Russia received an invitation. The competition currently consists of Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Tajikistan Football Association revealed the request for Russia. Apparently, Russia accepted. There will also be another unnamed nation to join the tournament as well to make eight total teams. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan are all former Soviet republics.

Russia reportedly accepts invitation to Asian tournament

Despite news that Russia has already agreed to the move, the nation’s soccer union has not yet publicly committed to the tournament. “We are currently in discussions about the possibility and conditions of the Russian national team’s participation in this tournament,” said the Russian union in a statement released to local media.

Move could signify a Russian confederation switch

If Russia plays in the tournament, it will boost the likelihood of the nation switching confederations. As of now, Russia is still a UEFA team. Yet, rumors circled for months about the openness to join the Asian Football Confederation, or AFC.

Geographically, Russia is part of both Asia and Europe. About three-quarters of the country’s land is technically in Asia. However, about three-quarters of Russia’s population is in the European part. Moscow and St. Petersburg, two of Russia’s biggest cities, boost this, as both are in the west of Russia.

No move is complete. However, AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa recently proclaimed to have a good relationship with Russia.

“We have a good relationship with the Russian federation and with the rest of the European federations, and we are always in contact with the federations on all occasions,” Salman said last month. “We want the best interests of the game as we seek to keep politics away from football.”

Russia resumed playing friendly matches last fall. Nevertheless, the upcoming central Asian tournament would be the nation’s first significant competition since before the Ukrainian invasion.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Russian Look