Activist countries

All the countries that FIFA has banned from the World Cup

IIt is rare for FIFA to ban national teams from participating in the World Cup. So when football’s world governing body declared earlier this year that Russia would be banned from competitions, including this year’s tournament in Qatar, it was a major step. Russia has become an international pariah because of its war in Ukraine, and the sports arena is no exception.

“This is one of the few cases we have so far in which a country has been explicitly banned for political action,” says Mauricio Borrero, associate professor of history at St. John’s University in New York. and world football expert. and Russia. It is more common for national teams to be banned due to issues with their football associations or third party interference.

Below are some of the countries that FIFA has banned at various times over the years, whether for political or other reasons.


In February, FIFA and UEFA banned all Russian clubs and national teams “until further notice” following its war with Ukraine. Pressure had been mounting from other countries; many European teams, such as England, Poland and Sweden, had already declared that they refused to play against Russia. In addition to the exclusion of the Russian men’s team from the World Cup, the women’s team could not participate in Euro 2022 this summer and Spartak Moscow could not participate in the Europa League.

Kenya and Zimbabwe

Typically, countries are temporarily banned due to government interference or issues with the national federation that oversees the sport. That’s what happened with Kenya and Zimbabwe earlier this year. The Kenyan Ministry of Sports has shut down the Football Federation of Kenya after allegations that funds have been misappropriated. The Zimbabwe Football Federation has been suspended by government officials following allegations of fraud and sexual harassment of female referees.

South Africa

FIFA suspended South Africa in 1961 in response to growing calls from the anti-apartheid movement to boycott South Africa. The law of the land at the time prohibited mixed sports teams and required foreign countries participating in international competitions held in South Africa to send all-white teams.

Following their suspension from world football, South Africa was subsequently banned from participating in the Olympics, international cricket and the Davis Cup (a tennis championship). FIFA reinstated South Africa’s membership in the early 1990s when apartheid was dismantled; in 2010, the country hosted the tournament.


FIFA and UEFA banned Yugoslavia from participating in the 1992 European Cup and 1994 World Cup following UN sanctions amid Serb-dominated government aggression in the Balkans, in particular against the former Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Chile was barred from qualifying matches for the 1994 World Cup in the United States after a dramatic attempt to steal a place in the 1990 tournament from rivals Brazil.

Chile goalkeeper Roberto Rojas appeared to be hit by a flare launched from the Brazilian section of the stadium as Brazil led 1-0 with 20 minutes remaining. A win or a draw would have secured Brazil’s place in the World Cup. Although Rojas was seen bleeding and the game was abandoned, a later photo revealed that he had not been hit by the flare; he had cut off his head using a razor blade hidden in his gloves.


In 2015, FIFA alleged third-party interference in Indonesia’s local football association by the government. Although the ban was lifted in 2016, it prevented the team from participating in the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers.


In 2016, Kuwait forfeited a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Myanmar. FIFA previously suspended the country’s football association, alleging government interference in the country’s local football association. The ban lasted more than two years.


FIFA banned Mexico from participating in the 1990 World Cup held in Italy because they included four older players in qualifying matches for the 1989 Youth World Championship. lasted two years.


In 2011, the team’s fans were violent during an Asian qualifier against Oman. They threw stones and glass bottles at the referee, the Omani players and the visiting coach. The Omani team finally escaped to the locker room to stay safe. FIFA awarded Oman, already trailing 2-0 in the game, a victory that saw Myanmar eliminated from the 2014 World Cup. The Myanmar team were also banned from the 2018 tournament, but the ban was lifted before the tournament following an appeal.

Controversial decisions to let teams play

There are many historical examples where FIFA did not ban countries from committing abuses. Notably, in the 1938 World Cup, Nazi Germany participated. In 1978, Argentina participated and hosted the tournament despite a military coup two years earlier. The stadium where the World Cup final was played was only a few kilometers from a military detention center where political prisoners were held and tortured, Borrero said. “Some of the political prisoners later recalled hearing noises coming from the stadium – people saying ‘goal’. It was one of those horrible, horrible situations,” adds Borrero.

This year, widespread anti-government protests in Iran have led to calls by some activists, including Iranian athletes, to ban the national soccer team from the tournament (though not all Iranians agree that a ban is the most effective form of protest).

But experts note that banning football teams based on their country’s political record can set a thorny precedent that may be applied unevenly since many countries engage in human rights abuses, such as India’s discrimination against Muslims, Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians or even the host country, Qatar. treatment of migrant workers.

Borrero says that in the case of Iran, for example, a ban could have set a difficult precedent. “Where do you stop? Many countries have these problems.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at [email protected]