Poland refuse to play Russia in 2022 World Cup playoff game

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Poland are refusing to play their World Cup qualifier against Russia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Polish soccer federation president Cezary Kulesza said on Saturday.

Russia are set to face Poland on March 24 and the winner of that match plays whoever triumphs between Sweden and Czech Republic in a playoff on March 29 in the Path B final to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

But Kulesza made the announcement on Twitter, citing Russia’s assault, and indicated Poland was in talks with other federations to present a unified position to FIFA.

“No more words, time to act!” Kulesza wrote, saying the move was prompted by the “escalation of the aggression.”

Poland striker Robert Lewandowski added: “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.”

Previously, Poland had only said they didn’t want to play the qualifying playoff semifinal in Moscow on March 24.

Earlier this week, the Football Associations of Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic released a statement urging FIFA to stage any World Cup playoff against Russia outside of the country following its attack on Ukraine.

In a letter addressed to the FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura, the three associations wrote: “Based on the current alarming development in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, including the security situation the Football Associations of Poland (PZPN), Sweden (SvFF) and Czech Republic (FACR) express their firm position that the playoff matches to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, scheduled for March 24 and 29, 2022, should not be played in the territory of the Russian Federation.

“The signatories to this appeal do not consider travelling to Russia and playing football matches there. The military escalation that we are observing entails serious consequences and considerably lower safety for our national football teams and official delegations.

“Therefore, we expect FIFA and UEFA to react immediately and to present alternative solutions regarding places where these approaching playoff matches could be played.”

On Thursday, FIFA said in a statement that the “hope for rapid cessation of hostilities and peace in Ukraine.”

“Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue. FIFA also continues to express its solidarity to the people affected by this conflict,” FIFA said. “Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, FIFA will continue to monitor the situation and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 202 qualifiers will be communicated in due course.”

Information from AP was used in this report