"Make the right choice India. Avoid Russia and Belarus at all costs."
With the recent Russia-Ukraine fallout, a historic FIFA international match featuring India and Belarus has been called off.
This was meant to be the first match for the national team of India against a European nation in more than a decade.
However, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has taken a swift stance, similar to other sporting federations.
This is after the International Olympic Commission (IOC) made a strong recommendation to ban athletes from Russia and Belarus from International sporting events.
Belarus have been hit with this suspension due to their role in Russia invading Ukraine.
As per reports, troops from Russia are entering Ukraine via Belarus.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary-general Kushal Das speaking on the friendly cancellation told The Indian Express:
“Since Belarus has been suspended, we can’t play them.”
Some fans felt India should have been neutral and not avoided this game with Belarus. Whilst Ajay Sharma thought it will be sensible for India to not go ahead with the game as he wrote on Facebook:
“Make the right choice India. Avoid Russia and Belarus at all costs. It’s not too late to regain your honour.”
As a result of this match being called off, AIFF has had to fall on good plan B.
According to a statement from the Indian football federation, they are now trying to schedule a “double header” with a Middle Eastern national side:
“We have a match with Bahrain so we are trying to see if we can organise two matches with them.”
Playing Bahrain twice is advantageous especially with them ranking higher than Belarus. Bahrain lies 91st, with Belarus in 94th place as per the FIFA rankings.
The India versus Bahrain matches are planned to take place in Manilla, Philippines.
With India ranking 104th in the world, these games are the perfect preparation for them ahead of the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers.
A tweet was circulating on Twitter about India possibly facing Latvia. However, there has been no official word on this from AIFF.
Earlier on February 28, 2022, FIFA suspended the national football team of Russia from the World Cup. UEFA also banned clubs from Russia from participating in global events.
Whilst AIFF had no choice in the matter, India will have to wait for another opportunity to play a European side.
It was over ten years ago since India last played a match against a European country. They suffered A 3-0 loss away to Azerbaijan in February 2012.