The Estonian women's national football team is scheduled to face Russia on September 22 at home, but due to government coronavirus restrictions, the match will instead be played in Jurmala, Latvia. Mihkel Uiboleht of the Estonian Football Association (EJL) said the men's team and Estonian clubs could face a similar fate.
Mihkel Uiboleht, head of the cooperation department at EJL, told ERR on Wednesday: "Those are the rules in the Republic of Estonia - people coming from outside the EU, Schengen area and Great Britain are subject to a 14-day isolation rule, and it is not possible to remove this, even if tests are done on the border and earlier.
"The Football Association was in communication with the Ministry of Culture at the end of July and start of August, when we notified them of our needs - what our matches were like with EU member states and beyond, and then we notified them about our match against Russia on September 22," Uiboleht added.
He said the EJL had asked for permission in August and the ministry's response then was that they were applying for a general sports exemption, as it is not only a question of football, but other sports as well.
Uiboleht said: "A final answer was given [on Tuesday], where the long-discussed topic ended with the government deciding against an exemption. We were forced to use our pocketed option of having to play matches in Latvia going forward. Latvia has set that athletes are allowed in for important international sports events, if the athletes have been tested and are in isolation on arrival. Therefore, the UEFA Euro 2021 qualifier Estonia - Russia will be played in Jurmala, Latvia."
He added that the association has also spoken with the Health Board (Terviseamet) who said the match and other similar football matches could take place in Estonia if strict regulations were followed.
Uiboleht noted: "The situation certainly does not only affect football, but sport in general. Everything is fine within the EU, but different Estonian sports can not choose their opponents. If a draw is conducted and we end up with Serbia or Russia, we immediately have a problem."
A problem could also arise in October, as the men's national football team is scheduled for two matches against North Macedonia and Armenia. The U-21 team is also scheduled for a match in Estonia, against Serbia.
"The culture ministry was aware of those dates (of the men's and U-21 team's matches - ed.) at the start of September and we will try to explain our stance once more, of course. We have also spoken to the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOK) and with the culture ministry once more," Uiboleht said.
Not just a football issue
Uiboleht added: "A similar example is if [basketball team] Kalev/Cramo were to play in the VTB United League, the opponents coming from Russia will also face the problem. They have no opportunity to come to Estonia.
"At the same time, an exemption was made for rally (WRC Rally Estonia - ed.) and triathlon (Ironman Tallinn), where entry was allowed from outside the EU and Schengen. Our assessment is that if athletes are coming, they have been previously tested, are in a controlled environment and will not be in contact with local reisdents," he noted.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste