Poland refuses to face Russia in 2022 World Cup play-off
In response to the Russian operation in the Donbass region, the Polish football federation says it refuses to face the Russian national team in the 2022 World Cup play-off taking place in Moscow.
Poland will not play their 2022 World Cup play-off with Russia in Moscow on March 24 because of the Russian operation in the Donbass region, the president of the Polish football federation Cezary Kulesza, announced Saturday.
"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 Kulesza, claiming 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 beats Poland -- to present a unified position to FIFA.
Koniec ze słowami, czas na czyny! W związku z eskalacją agresji Federacji Rosyjskiej na Ukrainę, reprezentacja Polski nie zamierza rozegrać barażowego meczu z rep. Rosji. To jedyna słuszna decyzja. Prowadzimy rozmowy z federacjami 🇸🇪 i 🇨🇿, aby przedstawić FIFA wspólne stanowisko.— Cezary Kulesza (@Czarek_Kulesza) February 26, 2022
The three federations issued a joint statement on Thursday demanding FIFA to move the respective play-offs from Russia -- who hosted the World Cup finals only four years ago.
Polish captain Robert Lewandowski -- who had tweeted on Friday he would consult his teammates about the match -- welcomed his federation's move.
"The right decision!" tweeted the Bayern Munich's star striker.
It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues. Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening. https://t.co/rfnfbXzdjF— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) February 26, 2022
His team-mate Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny -- whose wife is Ukrainian -- demanded UEFA and FIFA "to hold Russian Federation accountable for their actions."
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- 'Must live in peace' -
However, on Thursday FIFA president Gianni Infantino refused to take a decision regarding the play-offs when he held a press conference hours after the Russian operation began.
He said "FIFA condemns the use of force" adding he was "shocked" by what he had seen but would not be rushed into a decision over moving the matches.
"The first match is in a month, we hope of course that this situation will be resolved well before then," he expressed.
European football's governing body UEFA punished Russia on Friday by stripping Saint Petersburg of hosting the Champions League final on May 28 and awarding it to Paris.
UEFA also announced that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in international competitions must play home matches at neutral venues "until further notice."
UEFA's decision was quickly followed by Formula One announcing they were canceling this year's Russian Grand Prix that was supposed to be held in Sochi on March 25.