Poland refusing to play Russia in 2022 World Cup qualifier - Breaking News

Poland refusing to play Russia in 2022 World Cup qualifier

Poland will refuse to play its scheduled World Cup qualifying playoff match against Russia next month because of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Sweden, which could also potentially play Russia later in the bracket, also said it would refuse to take part.

“No more words, time to act! Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia,” Polish football association president Cezary Kulesza tweeted early Saturday morning. “We are in talks with (Swedish) and (Czech) federations to bring forward a joint statement to FIFA.”

Polish president Andrzej Duda replied to the tweet, saying: “And rightly so, Mr. President. You don’t play with bandits!”

President of the Polish Football Association Cezary Kulesza.

Poland was scheduled to play Russia in Moscow on March 24. The winner of that game was set to play the winner of a Sweden-Czech Republic match on March 29 for a spot in the World Cup.

“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,” star striker Robert Lewandowski tweeted. “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

In a statement, the Polish team said: “We, the players of the Polish national team, together with the Polish Football Association, decided that as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we do not intend to play in the play-off match against Russia.

“It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kiev with his family.”

What happens next as far as qualification to the World Cup goes is unclear. UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, pulled the Champions League final from St. Petersburg following the invasion, moving the game to Paris.