Poland and Sweden will not play the Qatar 2022 playoff in March in Moscow after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Poland will not play the soccer World Cup qualifier against Russia next month following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“In light of the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the Polish national team will not play a match against the Republic of Russia,” said the President of the Polish Football Association, Cesare Kuleza, on Saturday.
It was “the only right decision,” he said.
Moscow is scheduled to host Poland in the semi-finals of the World Cup qualifiers on March 24, and if its team advances, it is scheduled to host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 in the final of Track B.
Kulesa added that the federation is in talks with the Swedish and Czech federations to present a common position to FIFA.
Poland’s national team players also used social media to express their support for the move.
The captain of the national team, Robert Lewandowski, said that he “cannot imagine playing a match with the Russian national team if armed aggression continues in Ukraine”.
“Russian football players and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing happened,” he wrote on Twitter.
It’s the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian national team in a situation where armed aggression continues in Ukraine. Russian football players and fans are not to blame, but we can’t pretend that nothing happened. https://t.co/rfnfbXzdjF
– Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) February 26, 2022
Kamil Celik, Mateusz Klic, Mate Kach and other players said the decision was not easy but that “there are more important things in life than football”.
They also expressed their solidarity with Ukraine “and our friend from the national team, Thomas Kidziora, who is still in Kiev with his family.”
Sweden also announced later on Saturday that it will not play in the soccer World Cup qualifiers against Russia.
“The illegal and extremely unjust invasion of Ukraine makes all football exchange with Russia impossible,” said Swedish Football Association president Karl-Erik Nilsson.
We therefore urge FIFA to decide to cancel the play-off matches in March in which Russia will participate. But no matter what FIFA chooses, we will not play against Russia in March.”
The conflict has entered a third day since Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed a large-scale invasion that killed dozens, forced more than 100,000 to flee Ukraine in just 48 hours and raised fears of a wider conflict in Europe.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino refused to make a decision on qualifying when he held a press conference hours after the invasion began on Thursday.
“FIFA condemns the use of force,” he said, adding that he was “shocked” by what he saw but would not rush to decide whether to move matches.
“The first match is in a month, and we hope, of course, that this situation will be resolved long before that,” he said.
The European Football Association (UEFA) punished Russia, on Friday, by stripping Saint Petersburg of hosting the Champions League final on May 28, and awarding it to Paris.
UEFA did not mention its relationship with Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant that is a major sponsor, but it is said to be in talks to sever ties.
It also announced that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in international competitions must play home matches at neutral venues “until further notice.”