Kazan still the host city for 2023 UEFA Super Cup. Is there a chance to save the match?

Europe is silent and in no hurry to transfer the match of the best teams in Europe from Kazan following St. Petersburg Champions League final

Kazan still the host city for 2023 UEFA Super Cup. Is there a chance to save the match?
Photo: realnoevremya.ru

Surprisingly, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has not announced the cancellation or transfer of the 2023 UEFA Super Cup, which is to be held in the capital of Tatarstan. After all, the UEFA did not hesitate for long with the transfer of the Champions League final from St. Petersburg. The sports editorial board of Realnoe Vremya cites all layouts and discusses why European football officials, despite rumours, have not officially abandoned the idea of holding the mini-tournament in Kazan.

Kazan is selected to host World Cup-level tournament, but…

“A historic event has occurred. For the first time in the history of Russia, Kazan is going to hold one of the title matches of modern football — UEFA Super Cup — in 2023," Tatarstan Sports Minister Vladimir Leonov said in March 2020.

In those days, hysteria around the new coronavirus infection COVID-19 was just heating up in the country and the world, and the news remained in the shadow of the news about the impending “apocalypse”. Meanwhile, this victory of the capital of Tatarstan truly became epoch-making. Matches of the winners of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup) have not been held before in Russia. No one from the CIS countries has hosted this mini-tournament yet. Meanwhile, the UEFA Super Cup is even higher in terms of the level of teams than the final of the same Europa League, and the flow of visiting fans is always high. Kazan would be provided with a flow of tourists from Europe and from other destinations — there are plenty of fans from Real Madrid (a regular of the tournament) or Barcelona in Asia.

Hosting such a significant match in Kazan should be the continuation of a series of grandiose football events that have already taken place at the Kazan Arena (now Ak Bars Arena). The capital of Tatarstan has already hosted matches of the 2017 Confederations Cup here, which precedes the World Cup. There were also great matches in the framework of the 2018 FIFA World Cup itself. And the match between France and Argentina in the quarterfinals can be considered almost the main decoration of that World Cup. Kazan has clearly established itself in the eyes of international football unions, and after the successful FIFA World Cup, FIFA called the tournament the best in history.

Match between France and Argentina in the quarterfinals can be considered almost the main decoration of that World Cup. Photo: Maxim Platonov/realnoevremya.ru

However, the world is changing rapidly and circumstances have also changed a lot since then. Russia today is under pressure from unprecedented sanctions, and the country is represented in a very limited form in international sports. There is no answer to the lingering question of what will happen to the UEFA Super Cup in Kazan now, given the suspension of Russian clubs from European competitions and the Russian national teams from tournaments under the auspices of UEFA and FIFA.

Kazan continues to prepare for the tournament but is ready for its cancellation

The first alarming calls began in May when the largest American sports TV channel shared the insider information that UEFA was allegedly considering the possibility of transferring the tournament from Kazan to another European city. We cannot assess how much this insider is really reliable — it is quite possible to invent it by applying simple logical analysis, because a couple of months before UEFA had already moved the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris. And it has to be said, it failed remarkably — the riots in the French capital and the delay in the start of the meeting showed that it is necessary to prepare for such events not in an emergency mode.

At that time, the Kazan Kremlin reacted quite quickly, in about the same way that it is customary to speak about sanctions in the Moscow Kremlin today. The head of the press service of the president of the Republic of Tatarstan, Lilia Galimova, said then that she would not be surprised if the match would be transferred from Kazan, and in general Tatarstan had already reoriented to domestic competitions.

However, the European Football Association is in no hurry to make an official decision even after almost six months after the slipped information from American journalists. Is this a good sign for Kazan? Rather yes than no. If the UEFA has not confirmed the May information and it has not surfaced anywhere else after that, this can only mean uncertainty in the association itself, which does not want to make sudden movements after an unsuccessful and hasty postponement of the Champions League Final.

Tatarstan Sports Minister Vladimir Leonov, in turn, said that rumours about the postponement of the match from the capital of Tatarstan are misinformation. So, the Kazan side continues to prepare for the game in the same mode.

“So far, everything is on schedule. We have no official papers or refutations. There was some kind of misinformation through the American edition, but officially we had no news, so we continue to prepare. In general, we have everything ready, some active phase of preparation will begin already in the calendar year 2023. Now we are fully in contractual obligations, and there is no talk of postponement or cancellation," Match TV quoted Leonov as saying.

The UEFA Commission really should start its work on the preparation of the city and the stadium from January 2023. It is obvious that football officials have chosen a wait-and-see attitude and are waiting for developments in Ukraine to make a final decision.

If they decide to repeat the trick of postponing the match, as it was done with St. Petersburg, the Union of European Football Associations will again have to pay compensation for the cancellation of the mini-tournament, now in Kazan. The fact that UEFA paid compensation to the Russian side for organising the Champions League final was announced by Aleksey Sorokin, the director general of the organising committee for the preparation of the Champions League final of the 2021/22 season in St. Petersburg.

UEFA Commission really should start its work on the preparation of the city and the stadium from January 2023. Photo: Maxim Platonov/realnoevremya.ru

UEFA is suffering because of the suspension of football players, but they are not waiting for Russia in European competitions

The urgent search for a replacement for Kazan and monetary losses are hardly included in the list of “pleasant chores” for UEFA. However, even considering these factors, it is worth remaining realistic. Russian clubs are not participating in tournaments under the auspices of UEFA, and it is unknown when they will be allowed there. Moreover, even in the teaser video preceding the World Cup in Qatar, an episode with Zabivaka The Wolf, the former main symbol of the Russian World Cup, was cut out of the timing of the final version. In turn, in May, UEFA President Alexander Ceferin said that he was not sure about the imminent return of Russian clubs to European cups.

“We all underestimated the situation in the previous months," Ceferin is quoted as saying by Sky Sport Italia. “When it all started, we thought it would last a couple of weeks. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine what will happen now. There is nothing we can say for sure. I am not sure that Russian clubs will have the opportunity to play in European competitions soon, but we will do everything possible so that Ukrainian clubs can perform," said Ceferin.

After that, however, he was filled with sad thoughts about how he was suffering from the suspension of Russian football players.

“Especially for Russian football players, they have become unintended victims of this conflict," the UEFA president summed up.

However, since then the ice has broken and there has already been a murmur in the sports environment that Russians (albeit under a neutral status) need to be returned to international sports. This was stated by President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach. And the International Boxing Federation went further and returned Russians to all tournaments with the preservation of the national flag and anthem. The IIHF Hockey Association, in turn, has already come to the decision that if the Russian national team returns to the World Championships, it will immediately return to the top division. The steps are small, but nevertheless they leave hope. Perhaps, after looking at the thawing of European society towards Russian athletes, UEFA will also come to a risky but strong-willed decision to hold the UEFA Super Cup in the capital of Tatarstan.

Erik Dobrolyubov

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