Poland FA and players refuse to play World Cup game with Russia

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Polish Football Association President Cezary Kulesza speaks during a press conference, after Czeslaw Michniewicz was announced by the Polish Football Association (PZPN) as the new coach of the national team, in Warsaw , Poland, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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WARSAW, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Poland will not play their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Russia next month following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland’s president said on Saturday. Polish Football Association, Cezary Kulesza, and players including captain Robert Lewandowski.

Kulesza said the association was in talks with its Swedish and Czech counterparts regarding playoff games scheduled for March to fill a World Cup berth.

“In light of the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the Polish national team will not play a match against the Republic of Russia,” Kulesza said on Twitter.

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“It’s the only right decision. We are in talks with the Swedish and Czech associations to present a common position to FIFA.”

Russia are set to host Poland in the semi-finals of their World Cup qualifier on March 24 and, if their side progress, are set to host Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 in the B-path final.

Polish national team players have also taken to social media to express their support for the decision.

“It’s not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football,” Kamil Glik, Mateusz Klich, Matty Cash and others wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

“Our hearts go out to the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kyiv with his family.”

National team captain Lewandowski wrote on Twitter: “I can’t imagine playing a game with the Russian national team in a situation where armed aggression in Ukraine continues.”

“Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we cannot pretend that nothing is happening.”

Poland and Serie A side Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, whose wife was born in Ukraine, didn’t mince words. instagram.

“I refuse to play against players who choose to represent Russian values ​​and principles,” he said.

“I refuse to participate in a sporting event that legitimizes the actions of the Russian government.”

Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic issued a joint statement on Thursday, saying Russia should not be allowed to stage World Cup qualifiers next month. Read more

Poland, however, are the first to refuse to play against Russia, risking effective withdrawal from the World Cup which could be the last for Lewandowski and many other Polish players.

Swedish Football Association president Karl-Erik Nilsson told Reuters on Thursday that playing a World Cup qualifier in Russia was “almost unthinkable”. Read more

“As it stands here and now, today there is absolutely no desire to play a football match in Russia,” he said.

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Reporting by Alicja Ptak and Anita Kobylinska, writing by Michael Kahn, editing by Catherine Evans and Hugh Lawson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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