Bosnia and Herzegovina will play Russia in a friendly match in November, the Bosnia Football Association announced on its official website on Friday, sparking criticism from Bosnia midfielder Miralem Pjanic and the mayor of Sarajevo.
The game will take place in St Petersburg on November 19, one day before the World Cup in Qatar is scheduled to start.
Russia’s national teams were barred from international competition over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”.
Bosnia failed to qualify for the World Cup.
“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.”
The 32-year-old former Juventus and Barcelona player has made 107 international appearances since his debut in 2008. He now plays for Sharjah FC in the United Arab Emirates.
The mayor of Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, Benjamina Karic, also reacted negatively on social media to the decision.
“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,” she posted on Twitter.
Sarajevo was besieged for 43 months between 1992 and 1995 during the Bosnian war. It was the longest siege in modern European history through the 20th century.
“Unless the decision is reversed, we will cease cooperation with the Football Association, which so far has been fruitful.”
Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic all said they would not play their World Cup qualifiers against Russia back in March before Russia’s national teams were banned from international competition.
Global soccer’s governing body Fifa and European soccer’s governing body Uefa decided in February that all Russian teams, whether national or club sides, would be suspended from participation in Fifa and Uefa competitions after the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.