Pjanic and Dzeko lead the reaction against the planned friendly match between Bosnia and Russia

The Bosnia and Herzegovina men’s national football team will play a friendly match against Russia in November, drawing heavy criticism from two of the country’s most prominent players, Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic.

The game is set to take place in Saint Petersburg on November 19, the day before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The Football Association of Bosnia announced the match on its official website on Friday, but Pjanic, one of the Balkan nation’s best-known players, was quick to make his feelings known.

“The decision is not good. I am speechless,” Pjanic said as quoted by Bosnian media. “In the domestic FA they know what I think. Russian national teams have been barred from international competition earlier this year following the invasion of Ukraine.

Pjanic, 32, has made 107 international appearances since his debut in 2008. After spells with Roma, Juventus and Barcelona, ​​he joined Sharjah FC in the United Arab Emirates at the end of the summer transfer window.

Dzeko, the current captain of the national team, also appears to have ruled himself out of the match. β€œI am against the course of this match; I am always and only for peace,” the striker said in quotes reported by Bosnian news site Klix.

“I have my position which is clear and which does not include playing this game, while innocent people are suffering,” added the former Manchester City and Roma striker, currently at Inter. “I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in these difficult times for them.”

The mayor of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, also reacted negatively on social networks to this decision. Benjamina Karic tweeted: “Sarajevo, as the city which has been besieged the longest by the aggressors, and I as the mayor strongly condemn the decision of the National FA to play a friendly match with Russia.”

Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic have all said they will not play men’s World Cup qualifiers against Russia in March, before Russian national teams were banned from international competition. Bosnia did not qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Fifa and UEFA then decided in February that all Russian teams, whether national or club, would be suspended from participating in their competitions after the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Russia haven’t played a senior men’s international since losing their World Cup qualifiers to Croatia last November. The Russian Football Federation recently announced friendlies against Kyrgyzstan on September 24 and against Iran in November.

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