With the start of the new season, UEFA will once again accept Russian under-17 teams into its tournaments.

On Tuesday, the governing body of European soccer declared that it lifted its ban on all Russian teams. These squads rejoin continental events next season.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Then, the European Football Association imposed a ban on all Russian national and club teams. But that is about to change. The governing body must settle on a strategy for under-17 male and female teams.

UEFA allowing Russian youth teams into continental competition

“Soccer should never stop delivering messages of peace and optimism,” UEFA said in a statement. UEFA said its ban punished children for the actions of adults.

The statement went further. “It is particularly aggravating that, due to the ongoing conflict, a generation of minors is deprived of the right to compete in international football.” For these reasons, the executive council determined that Russian youth teams may once again participate in events this season.

The announcement from UEFA notes no matches involving Russian teams will happen on Russian soil. Nor will they use the Russian flag, anthem or national gear, as per The Athletic.

Ukraine responds to UEFA change

On the other hand, the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) harshly criticized UEFA’s decision to reinstate Russian youth teams. Ukrainian soccer authorities have urged their international footballing counterparts to avoid playing against Russian sides.

The UAF has issued a statement on its website.

“The UAF categorically condemns the UEFA decision to return the U17 team from the Russian Federation to international competitions. The Ukrainian Football Association insists on maintaining the previous decisions of UEFA and FIFA to ban the participation of all Russian teams in international tournaments under the auspices of these organizations.

“The UAF confirms that it will not participate in any competitions involving Russian teams and calls on other UEFA members to also boycott possible matches with teams from the Russian Federation if they are allowed to participate.

“We strongly ask UEFA to reconsider this decision and maintain the previous complete ban on the participation of any Russian teams in international competitions.”

PHOTO: IMAGO / Russian Look