Bosnia and Herzegovina have scheduled a friendly against Russia one day before the start of the World Cup, sparking controversy and attracting criticism from within their own ranks.
The match is set to take place in Saint Petersburg on November 19, on the eve of Qatar 2022, with the date and Bosnia’s opposition both being highly questionable.
Russia’s national teams were banned from international competition following the invasion of Ukraine, weeks before the team were due to start a play-off campaign for a potential spot at the World Cup.
Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, who were due to be potential opponents for Russia, pressured for the ban to take place, while federations representing England, France and the United States quickly made it clear they would not play them under any circumstances.
NS/FS BiH je prihvatio ponudu za odigravanje međunarodne prijateljske utakmice od strane FS Rusije.https://t.co/AzZ8WI9nbY pic.twitter.com/ExNWAxIWbr
— NFS BIH (@NFSBiH) September 9, 2022
Bosnia, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the tournament and the decision to play Russia was condemned by midfielder Miralem Pjanic.
“The decision is not good. I am speechless,” Pjanic was quoted as saying by Bosnian media. “In the national Football Association, they know what I think.”
Benjamina Karic, the mayor of Bosnian capital Sarajevo, also hit out at the decision in a social media post.
“Sarajevo as the city which has been under the longest siege from aggressors and me as a mayor strongly condemn the decision by the national Football Association to play a friendly match with Russia,” Karic said.
“Unless the decision is reversed, we will cease cooperation with the Football Association, which so far has been fruitful.”
Russia have not played an international match since last November but are due to face Kyrgyzstan this month and Iran in November.