A sports broadcaster from Russia warns that Russian football is in danger of regressing

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A prominent sports broadcaster in Russia warned Reuters that Russian football is in danger of regressing due to its isolation from European and international competitions. 

However, the broadcaster emphasized the importance of persistently seeking opportunities to return to these competitions. In response to Russia’s deployment of troops to Ukraine in February 2022, both UEFA and FIFA decided to suspend all Russian teams, whether national or club, from participating in their respective competitions.

The recent extravagant celebrations of Zenit St Petersburg, who won their fifth consecutive league title last month with a team that includes several Brazilian and Colombian players, indicate that domestic football still has vitality. 

However, Dmitry Guberniev, a sports presenter, expressed concern that Russia’s international isolation could have a negative impact on the quality of the domestic game.

“Of course, athletes, football players suffer, without a doubt,” he said. “We won’t pretend it’s not happening… it’s going backwards because we don’t play in European cups and our national team unfortunately plays only friendlies.”

The idea of the Russian Football Union (RFU) switching from UEFA to the Asian confederation (AFC), which has 47 member nations, has been suggested. However, Guberniev, a dismissive figure, has rejected this idea.

“It’s easy to quit (UEFA) but difficult to return. Besides, it’s not that the Asian federation will welcome us with open arms,” he said, pointing to likely opposition from Australia, Japan and South Korea.

“Even facing difficulties, maintaining contacts with UEFA and FIFA is paramount,” he said.

“We need to try to knock even on those closed doors, to explain, relate, promote,” he said. “Keeping the dialogue is very important. We must not close ourselves up in any way.”

In addition to the clubs and players, match officials are also not allowed to participate in international competitions. Sergey Karasev, a renowned referee from Russia who has previously officiated at a World Cup, does not have high hopes of making a comeback to the top level after being absent for a “difficult” period of 16 months.

“Honestly, the chance is slim. It would be the ultimate miracle if this happens,” he told Reuters. “I have spent almost two years without international matches. Even if it happens in the near future, I don’t know if I can quickly return.”

Karasev mentioned that a decrease in the amount of money circulating in the economy might create difficulties for smaller teams. However, he remains optimistic that the domestic game can still flourish.

“Our guys are hungry and angry; they want to prove themselves. So, I think in the near future we will get good top level Russian football players,” Karasev said.

However, it is a disappointing blow for the supporters who are unable to witness their nation and favorite teams compete at the highest level.

“It’s bad, of course it’s bad that we left Europe,” Zenit fan Yevgeny Bagayev told Reuters in St Petersburg.

“We always looked forward to our team being in the Champions League and the Europa League – it’s like a religion and we always longed for it.”

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