Cologne asks UEFA to exclude Belarusian soccer clubs

July 21, 2022 GMT

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — German soccer club Cologne has called for the exclusion of Belarusian teams from European competitions because of the country’s support for Russia amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The Bundesliga club said Thursday it had written to UEFA asking to add Belarusian clubs to the ban on Russian teams and was rallying support from other clubs.

Cologne is scheduled to play in the playoffs for a spot in the group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League. Belarusian clubs BATE Borisov, Gomel, Shakhtyor Soligorsk and Dinamo Minsk are potential opponents.

Cologne said it was “ asking UEFA to take decisive action and to remove the teams from the competition ” because of “the political situation and the support for Russia from the Belarusian government in the invasion of Ukraine.”

The club said it strongly condemned “the openly communicated closeness of the Belarusian government to Russia as well as the behavior associated with the war in Ukraine” and it encouraged its members to support its appeal for the clubs to be excluded.

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Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has allowed the country’s forces to use its territory to attack Ukraine. Russia used joint military exercises with Belarus as a guise to position its troops near the border. They then advanced on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv from the north in February.

UEFA kicked Russian clubs and national teams out of all its events, a decision upheld last week at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. UEFA has allowed Belarusian teams to keep playing, as long as the games are hosted outside of Belarus without a crowd. Cologne didn’t say what it would do if it was drawn against a Belarusian team.

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