IT takes some doing to get banned from the FIFA World Cup – but Ecuador may soon be joining the list of nations which have been booted out. Football’s governing body is investigating a claim that defender Byron Castillo used a fake birth certificate.
The nation once known as Myanmar pulled out of a 2002 World Cup qualifying match that was scheduled in Iran. They were fined and banned from the tournament after their decision.
1. South Africa
South Africa was banned from world soccer for apartheid, the system of racial segregation enforced by the government. Blacks, whites and ‘Coloureds’ (people of mixed race) had separate neighbourhoods, schools, buses and public areas under apartheid.
FIFA bans member nations from international competitions all the time, but it is rare for them to be suspended for political reasons. It happened to Yugoslavia during the 1992 European Cup and World Cup due to war in the Balkans, and it also happened to Chile in 1989 over its support for the U.S. during the Cold War.
In the years after South Africa’s first democracy, Bafana Bafana looked set to be a dominant force in African football. But the national team has struggled since then and it is difficult to understand why. One reason is the vuvuzelas. They are loud and shrill and can drown out any sudden breath or cheer.
Soccer is Mexico’s favorite sport and the country can emotionally unite and divide over their rivalries in the game. It’s no surprise that the national team has won a number of world championships and Copa Libertadores.
However, controversies have often plagued the tournament and that has been no different this time around. From deaths during stadium construction to a row over captains wearing OneLove armbands, it’s been an eventful few days in Qatar.
Among those controversies was the suspension of the Mexican Football Federation for using four players over age limits in a youth tournament qualifying match. The two-year ban was imposed by FIFA and it caused Mexico to miss out on the 1989 World Cup in Italy. This was also the year that Chile goalkeeper Roberto Rojas pretended to be hurt by a flare while in reality, he used a hidden blade inside his glove.
Since the military junta staged a coup in February 2021, it has launched a nationwide crackdown on millions of people opposed to its rule. Its security forces have been accused of mass killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, sexual violence, and more.
Myanmar has a diverse society, but the country’s ethnic majority—known as Bamar—has historically held the lion’s share of government and military positions. Many ethnic minority groups face discrimination, lack of economic opportunity, and minimal representation in government.
FIFA World Cup suspended Kenya in February after the sports ministry dissolved the country’s national federation, handing it over to government civil servants —a clear violation of FIFA rules. However, the ban was lifted after FIFA received documentation that the federation was still run by its members. The country was then allowed to compete in the tournament.
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Kuwait is a small and oil-rich kingdom in the Persian Gulf that became an international pariah after Iraq invaded in 1990. The country’s economy suffered from a 1982 stock market crash, an oil price drop, and the devastating 1990-1991 Gulf War, but has since recovered to the point where it is one of the world’s leading petroleum exporters.
FIFA’s decision to ban beer from stadiums during the tournament was a major embarrassment for a tournament that is meant to be all about soccer, but also highlighted the long-running cultural clash that has accompanied Qatar’s hosting. The move was reportedly a sign of pressure from the royal family.
FIFA’s ruling prompted a surge in demand for the banned OneLove armbands, with their Dutch manufacturers claiming that they had sold out. The bands are designed to promote inclusivity and diversity but are not allowed in a sport where homosexuality is illegal.
Fifa suspends its member nations all the time – but it takes a lot to get banned from football’s most prestigious tournament. It happened to Yugoslavia at the height of their civil war and to South Africa during apartheid – but to ban a country for political reasons is exceptionally rare.
Russia’s ban on the World Cup came in coordination with European soccer’s governing body UEFA after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The ban prevented Russian teams from competing in FIFA and UEFA club competitions until further notice.
Poland, Albania, Sweden and the Czech Republic all refused to play Russia in their scheduled World Cup playoff games, citing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. And despite previous half-measures from the football world, the ban looks likely to stay in place.
Almost all of the world’s 207 FIFA member nations are eligible to compete in the World Cup. Qualification for the tournament begins almost three years before the event and takes place in a series of groups, based on geography.
Ethiopia, a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa, is known for its rock-cut churches and other ancient cultures. In recent years, it has been grappling with political instability, including a military coup and widespread human rights abuses.
Although Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pledged to reform the country’s authoritarian state, violence and corruption persist. In addition, Ethiopia is still battling an insurgency with rebels from the ethnic Tigray region that has left millions displaced. This conflict has also been exacerbated by security force abuses and restrictive laws.
Algeria is a North African country with a Mediterranean coastline and vast Saharan desert interior. Its capital, Algiers, features landmarks like the circa-1612 Ketchaoua Mosque and the hillside Casbah quarter with its winding alleys.
Social unrest is frequent in Algeria. Spontaneous protests, demonstrations, and riots are largely based on long-standing socio-economic grievances. The violence often involves fisticuffs, fireworks, Molotov cocktails, and looting. Travelers should avoid crowds, protests, and demonstrations.
The country’s economy depends primarily on oil and natural gas exports. The government maintains a welfare state and provides substantial subsidies for energy products. The government has implemented several reforms in recent years, including removing gender quotas in parliament. However, corruption remains a serious problem. Terrorism is a threat to the safety of travelers in Algeria.