The Indian national football team's international friendly against Belarus, scheduled for March 26, has been called off due to the invasion of Ukraine carried out by Russia.
Belarus are a close ally of Moscow and according to reports, they have allowed Russian forces to orchestrate the invasion from their country and have also helped enter Ukraine.
Ahead of the all-important AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers, to be played in June, India were set to play two friendlies in March. They were scheduled to face Bahrain on March 23 and Belarus three days later. Both matches were to be played in Manama.
However, All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary-general Kushal Das informed The Indian Express on Tuesday that since Belarus has been suspended, the country won't be playing against them. The AIFF will now try to schedule two matches against Bahrain. Das said:
"Since Belarus has been suspended, we can’t play them. We have a match with Bahrain so we are trying to see if we can organize two matches with them."
The decision to cancel the friendly comes a day after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested that athletes and officials from Russia and their ally, Belarus, be isolated from the sporting arena.
The IOC Executive Board recommended that international federations and organizations "not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials."
Meanwhile, world football's governing body FIFA has also suspended Russia from international football, including this month’s World Cup qualifier.
Belarus are currently ranked 94th in the world and would have been the first European team India faced in more than a decade. The Blue Tigers last faced a European opponent in February of 2012 when they lost 3-0 to Azerbaijan.