Saudi Arabia says it has nothing against Russia joining the Asian Football Confederation.
Saudi Arabia’s sports minister said on Wednesday that the country would not object if Russia joined the Asian Football body as Russian officials look for methods to compete internationally once more.
Following Russia’s exclusion from international competition by the European body UEFA due to the invasion of Ukraine, Russian officials hinted at relocating to Asia in December.
Despite subsequently calling for a working group to discuss reestablishing links with UEFA, Alexander Dyukov, the head of the Russian Football Union, did not completely rule out the possibility of the organization applying for membership in the AFC.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the sports minister for Saudi Arabia, said he didn’t see a problem with Russia switching its allegiances to Asia during a speech at the AFC Congress in Bahrain.
“If FIFA and the AFC allow it and there’s a benefit for Asia then I don’t think there’s a problem with that,” he told AFP.
Russia’s club teams would compete in Asian tournaments and would play in World Cup qualifications against Asian opponents if it joined the AFC.
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the AFC, stated that no formal request has been made regarding Russia’s admission.
“If we get something official for the AFC in this regard, then this is another issue, but I will not anticipate events and talk about something that did not happen in the first place,” he told media.
“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. We want the best interests of the game as we seek to keep politics away from football.”
Russian and Belarusian athletes, who have been excluded from the majority of Olympic sports since the invasion, were asked to participate in this year’s postponed Asian Games, which were supposed to take place in China, last week.
Despite a boycott threat from Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee has stated that permitting Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics should be “further investigated.”