FIFA playoffs: Poland refuses match against Russia amid Ukraine invasion
- Poland refuses to play Russia in FIFA playoffs after country mounted Ukraine assault
- UEFA Champions League final has shifted venue from Russia to Paris
- FIFA hasn't removed Russia from the tournament yet
The Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza tweeted about the same, which translates to "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."
While UEFA had taken a match away from Russia after the invasion, the country hadn't been booted from the world cup playoffs, the Daily Mail reported. Accordingly, Russia was slated to face Poland, and then whoever won in the fixture between Sweden and the Czech Republic.
Now, Poland has not only refused to play the match, but all three countries' federations issued a joint statement where they demanded Russia's clarity on the Ukraine situation and asked for immediate 'alternative solutions' as per the Daily Mail.
The statement reads "Based on the current alarming development in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, including the security situation the Football Associations of Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic express their firm position that the playoff matches to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, scheduled for 24 and 29 March 2002, 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".
FIFA expressed hope for this situation being resolved by March, but also released a statement according to the Daily Mail. It reportedly reads, "FIFA condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts. Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue. FIFA also continues to express our solidarity to the people affected by this conflict. Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will be communicated in due course".
Notably, the UEFA Champions League final, which was slated to be held in Russia has already been cancelled and will take place in Paris itself. Further, Russia's assault on Ukraine has prompted UEFA to seek legal counsel on removing Russian energy giant Gazprom, whose CEO is on UEFA's board of directors.