Poland will not play their World Cup play-off against Russia next month because of the invasion of Ukraine, the president of Poland’s Football Association, Cezary Kulesza, said on Saturday, a decision backed up by the team’s players, including star forward Robert Lewandowski.
Kulesza said the association was in talks with its Swedish and Czech counterparts regarding playoff matches scheduled for March to fill a slot for the World Cup.
“In light of the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the Polish national team is not going to play a match against Russian Republic,” Kulesza tweeted.
“This is the only right decision. We are in talks with Swedish and Czech association to present a common position to Fifa.“
Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski quickly endorsed Kulesza’s words, tweeting: “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.”
In a separate 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.”
Kedziora, 27, is a defender for Dynamo Kyiv. The statement was signed with the hashtags #SolidarnizUkraina (In solidarity with Ukraine) and #NoWar Please.
Russia is due to host Poland in the semi-finals of its strand of the World Cup playoffs on 24 March and, if its team advances, would host either Sweden or the Czech Republic on 29 March in the Path B final.