Robert Lewandowski and Poland refuse to play against Russia in World Cup qualifying

The Polish national team captain has said he cannot imagine playing against Russia while the country wages war in Ukraine

Lawrence Ostlere
Saturday 26 February 2022 19:26 GMT
Robert Lewandowski: ‘It is the right decision'
Robert Lewandowski: ‘It is the right decision' (Getty)

Robert Lewandowski has backed Poland’s refusal to play football against Russia, saying he cannot imagine playing the Russian team while the country invades Ukraine.

The head of the Polish Football Association, Cezary Kulesza, announced on Saturday that Poland did not intend to play their upcoming World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final against Russia, due to take place on 24 March, and that talks have begun with Sweden and Czech Republic, the two nations who could potentially face Russia in the final.

“No more words, time to act!” Kulesza tweeted. “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] federations to present a common position to Fifa.”

Fifa has not banned Russia from the qualification process, saying only that the Russian Federation would have to find alternative venues outside the country to host matches.

The Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski, who is the Polish national team captain and one of the best players in world football, backed the stance, tweeting: “It is the right decision!”

He added: “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.”

The Polish team also released a joint statement confirming they do not intend to play against Russia as a result of the war. “It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football. Our thoughts are with the Ukranian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kiev with his family.”

Poland’s stance increases the pressure on Fifa to act and evict the Russian team from World Cup qualification. Fifa has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said it will provide more communication on issues surrounding the matches of Russia and Ukraine, who are due to play Scotland in the play-offs, in due course.

Poland has also offered to host Ukraine’s matches going forward.

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