Poland refuses to play 2022 World Cup play-off against Russia
WARSAW: Poland will not play their 2022 World Cup play-off with Russia in Moscow on March 24 due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine the president of the Polish football federation said on Saturday.
The conflict entered the third day on Saturday since Russian leader Vladimir Putin unleashed a full-scale invasion that has killed dozens of people, forced more than 50,000 to flee Ukraine in just 48 hours and sparked fears of a wider conflict in Europe.
“The time for talking is over. It is time to act. Due to the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression in Ukraine, the Polish team does not envisage playing the play-off against Russia,” wrote Cezary Kulesza, adding it was the “only correct decision”.
He said he would work with the Swedish and Czech federations — the winners of their match would have to play in Russia (on March 29) if the latter beat Poland — to present a unified position to FIFA.
The three federations issued a joint statement on Thursday demanding Fifa move the respective play-offs from Russia.
Polish star Robert Lewandowski had tweeted on Friday that he would consult his team-mates about the match and his rejection of war.
“Everything which is beautiful in sports is against what war brings,” he said.
“For all people who value freedom and peace this is a time of solidarity with the victims of the military agression in Ukraine.
“As the Captain of the National Team I will speak with my teammates about the match against Russia, in order to work out a common position on this question and present it to the president of the PZPN (Polish Football Association) as soon as possible.”
European football’s governing body UEFA punished Russia on Friday by stripping Saint Petersburg of hosting European club football’s showpiece event the Champions League final on May 28 and awarded it to Paris.