Poland and Sweden refuse to play against Russia in the World Cup playoffs

WARSAW – Poland’s refusal to play in its World Cup qualifier against Russia next month in response to Russia’s Russian invasion gained further support as Sweden continued with its own plans to protest to FIFA on Saturday.

The president of the Polish football federation, Cezary Kulesza, announced Poland’s decision and said he was in talks with other federations to present a unified position to FIFA, responsible for the March 24 match in Moscow.

“No more words, it’s time to act!” Kulesza wrote on Twitter, adding that the move was motivated by “escalation of aggression.”

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny were among those who supported the decision, and the Bayern Munich striker said “we can’t pretend nothing is wrong”.

Sweden, a potential opponent of Russia in next month’s playoffs, later joined Poland in declaring that their national team would not play a game against the Russians no matter where they take place.


“Illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine makes all football matches with Russia impossible at present,” said Karl-Erik Nilsson, president of the Swedish federation. “Therefore, we urge FIFA to decide to cancel the March playoffs in which Russia participates.”

The winner of the Poland-Russia match will host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 for a place in the World Cup to be held in Qatar from November 21 to December 21. 18.

“We have a hard time believing,” Nilsson added, “that FIFA will not follow our call. Russia cannot unite as long as this madness continues.”

Nilsson is also UEFA’s first vice-president, who deprived Russia of the Champions League final in St. Petersburg in May. UEFA decided on Friday to move that match to Paris.


Lewandowski, Poland’s all-time leading scorer and winner of the FIFA Player of the Year award for the past two years, supported Kulesza’s announcement.

“I can’t imagine playing a game with the Russian national team in a situation where armed aggression continues in Ukraine,” Lewandowski said on Twitter. “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we cannot pretend that nothing is happening.”

FIFA has yet to take a clear stand on Russia’s headquarters or even play against Poland.

UEFA’s European football body said on Friday that in its competitions all Russian and Ukrainian teams must move their home matches to play in other countries.

A possible precedent for action is 1992. Both FIFA and UEFA withdrew Yugoslavia from their competitions following sanctions imposed by the United Nations for the outbreak of war there.

Earlier, Poland had only said it did not want to play in the semi-finals in Moscow.


Russian troops rushed to the Ukrainian capital on Saturday after a night of explosions and street fighting that sent Kiev residents seeking refuge underground.

It was not immediately clear how far the Russian troops had advanced. Ukrainian officials reported some success in fighting the aggression, but fighting continued near the capital.


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Poland and Sweden refuse to play against Russia in the World Cup playoffs

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