Latvian teams will refuse to play Russian teams at all levels of football

The Latvian Football Federation (LFF) came out with a crystal-clear statement September 27 distancing itself from current efforts by the sport's European governing body, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), to move towards rehabilitating teams and players from aggressor state Russia.

The statement from LFF is particularly significant given its announcement just a day before that UEFA has chosen the Latvian Football Federation (LFF) as the organizer of the 2027 European U-17 Championship final tournament for boys, described as "the biggest and most important football tournament entrusted to Latvia." 

However, on Tuesday UEFA also decided to lift the ban on the Russian youth national teams from participating in the competitions organized by it and instructed the UEFA administration to develop the procedure by which the Russian U-17 national teams, both boys and girls, can return to the UEFA qualifying tournaments this season. At the same time, UEFA kept in force the disqualifications of adult Russian national teams and clubs.

UEFA has decided that all Russian youth national teams should play under a neutral flag, without playing the national anthem before matches and outside of Russian territory. The UEFA Executive Committee based its decision on the fact that Russian children are not responsible for the actions of adults.

Of course, Russian youth teams are run by adults as trainers, administrators, sponsors etc.

"The Latvian Football Federation (LFF) reconfirms that Latvian national football teams of all levels will not play against Russian teams, regardless of the venue of such games or the form of representation of Russian athletes. This is contrary to LFF's strong position regarding the war started by Russia in Ukraine, and this position will remain in force until the end of hostilities in Ukraine," said the LFF.

"LFF confirms once again that it is and will be united with Ukraine and Ukrainian colleagues in all subsequent decisions. Also, LFF fully respects and observes the procedures established in Latvian legislation, which refer to the conduct of such games or restrictions on the admission of such sports teams to the territory of Latvia," the LFF asserted.

Whether the moral stance taken by the LFF causes UEFA to reverse its decision on the U-17 championship remains to be seen. The continent's 16 strongest national teams will be participating and qualification will begin a year earlier, but Latvia, as the organizer of the tournament, is guaranteed a place among the participants. Whether Russia will be among the 16 finalists is yet to be decided. It is very much to be hoped that the agressor state is defeated long before the start of the qualification process.

Lithuania's LRT News site reported that the Lithuanian Football Federation issued a statement similar to Latvia's, saying that Lithuanian teams will not play against Russian teams.

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