March 14 (Reuters) – Russia have been invited to compete in the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) Championship in June, amid speculation over a switch to the Asian confederation (AFC) as the country seeks a return to international competition.
Russian teams have been suspended from European and FIFA competitions since Moscow launched what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine last February.
The Tajikistan Football Federation (TFF) said on Monday Russia has been invited to CAFA’s inaugural men’s tournament scheduled for June 9 to 21 along with its six member nations and another country, which is yet to be confirmed.
CAFF is part of the AFC and was formed in 2014. It comprises the national federations of Afghanistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The TFF added Russia had already accepted the invitation, but the country’s football federation (RFU) told news agency TASS that the possibility and conditions of the team’s participation were being discussed.
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AFC and CAFA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Regional competitions, such as the Copa America in South America, often invite guest countries from outside the federation to tournaments.
The Russian Under-17 women’s team will participate in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship from March 20 to 28.
Switching from the UEFA to Asia’s 47-nation confederation had been touted by RFU chief Aleksander Dyukov as a possible option to allow the Russian national teams and clubs continued international competition.
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The men’s team played three friendlies last year, against Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. They are scheduled to face Iran and Iraq this month.
Most international sports federations have excluded athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus since the invasion of Ukraine, but some are now starting to allow them back into competition.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Jamie Freed)