Czech Republic and Sweden have joined Poland in refusing to play Russia in next month’s World Cup play-offs as pressure grows on UEFA to kick Russian teams out of their competitions following the invasion of Ukraine.
The Poles are due to face Russia in Path B of the European play-offs in Moscow on March 24, with the winner taking on Sweden or Czech Republic for a place at the Qatar event later this year.
The decision has already been made to stop Russia from hosting the 2022 Champions League final, with the showpiece event now being held in Paris instead of St Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena, but UEFA has fallen short of banning teams.
Taking matters into their own hands, Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza said: “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.
“This is the only right decision. We are in talks with the Swedish and Czech Republic federations to present a common position to FIFA.”
Poland and Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski backed the decision, saying: “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.”
And Czech Repubilc later joined the move.
A statement read: “The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it’s not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue.
“We all want the war to end as soon as possible.”
While Swedish Football Association chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson said: “The illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine currently makes all football exchanges with Russia impossible. We therefore urge FIFA to decide that the playoff matches in March in which Russia participates will be cancelled. But regardless of what FIFA chooses to do, we will not play against Russia in March.”
Meanwhile, ex-Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan has urged the footballing authorities to stop Russia and Spartak Moscow from participating in its major competitions.
Spartak are the only Russian side still in European competition this term as they continue their progress in the Europa League after being drawn against RB Leipzig in the competition’s last-16.
While both Spartak Moscow and the Russia national team are currently still scheduled to be involved in the UEFA and FIFA-run competitions, Jordan believes that both should be banned in order to ensure sport follows suit with the other corners of the Western world.
His comments came after Formula 1 made the big call to scrap the Russian Grand Prix on Friday over the ongoing turmoil, with Russian forces reaching the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The talkSPORT host also believes football has to follow F1 in other ways, after the Haas F1 team stripped their car’s livery of their Russian sponsors, amid reports UEFA will end their sponsorship from state-owned Russian energy giants, Gazprom.
Speaking on talkSPORT, Jordan said: “I think it’s unarguable. Even people like me who are entrenched in the position that politics and sport don’t mix, there are exceptional circumstances.
“This is not a debate. UEFA need to stand down Gazprom and not have them being endorsed on any screens.
“They need to stand down the Russian teams. They need to stand down their participation in the World Cup.”
Asked whether Spartak Moscow should be booted out of the Europa League, Jordan responded: “Absolutely.
“What sport should be doing is lockstepping behind the landscape of what everybody else is doing. That’s the landscape of shutting everything down.
“If Aeroflot can’t fly to the UK, then Russian teams can’t play in European tournaments.
“It’s not a case of the political landscapes and this being one of the exceptions to the rule, we are in a situation in the West where an aggressor can’t behave in this way and sport can’t be out of step.
“Sport can’t be out of step with what’s going on in society.
“We talk about sport reflecting society and we talk about societal behaviour manifesting itself in sport, sport is not an exception.
“If sport does not fall in line in this instance then sport makes itself an island, which is a ridiculous one to be on.
“F1 has to step down from the Russian Grand Prix, the Russians have to be taken out of the World Cup.
“None of this going to make much of a difference to Vladimir Putin because sanctions aren’t going to stop him from what he is doing, but let’s not make it any more palatable for them. Let’s make it as unpalatable as we can.
“Isolation is a very dangerous policy, but it is where we are now.”
Source Link: Read more