Poland’s national soccer team is refusing to play Russia in a 2022 World Cup playoff match in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The president of the Polish football association, Cezary Kulesza, said that the Polish national team “does not intend” to participate in the playoff match, the BBC reported.
In a joint statement, members of 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 intend to play in the playoff match against Russia.”
“It is not an easy decision,” the statement continued, “But there are more important things in life than football. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation.”
Polish footballer Robert Lewandowksi said, “It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a march 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.”
Cezary Kulesza, the current president of the Polish Football Association, said, “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 President Andrezj Duda replied to Kulesza’s statement saying, “Rightly so, Mr. President. You don’t play with bandits!”
Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, also chimed in saying, “You cannot play a match against Russia under such circumstances … Thank you so much for this decision.”
National teams from Sweden and the Czech Republic joined Poland in a joint statement.
The Swedish and Czech teams are to play each other in a playoff match and whichever team wins would likely advance to play the Russian team in the World Cup tournament.
The Swedish team said on Twitter that they “will not play against Russia – regardless of where the match is played.” In a statement, the team said, “The Federal Board also urges FIDA to cancel the playoff matches in March in which Russia participates.”
On Saturday, Roman Abramovich, Russian billionaire and owner of the Chelsea Football Club, handed over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to the trustees of its charitable foundation. Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, forfeited ownership of the team after the British parliament pressured him to do so in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.
Abramovich said, “I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea.”