Andrzej Duda called Russia “bandits”, while star striker Robert Lewandowski and the head of the Polish Football Association have also spoken out to boycott a decisive World Cup qualifier
Poland’s potential boycott of a crisis-stricken Qatar World Cup qualifier in Russia in March has been backed by the country’s president, Andrzej Duda, and the country’s most famous football player, FIFA’s best male player Robert Lewandowski.
Poland are scheduled to host Russia in a one-legged play-off final in Moscow on March 24, although the venue is uncertain after UEFA ordered all Russian teams to play in neutral arenas for the foreseeable future as part of an announcement that moved the season’s Champions League final. from St. Petersburg to Paris.
The decisions were made after Russia invaded Ukraine, and the head of the Polish Football Association, Czarek Kulesza, has now insisted that his country’s games and Valeri Karpin’s team will not go ahead.
“Due to the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the Polish national team does not intend to play the playoff match. [between the] the Republic of Poland and Russia, “said Kulesza.
“This is the only right decision. We are in talks with the Swedish and Czech federations to present a common position to FIFA,” Kulesza concluded.
The winner of the match would face the winner of a simultaneous semi-final between Sweden and the Czech Republic in Stockholm, with the final originally planned to be held in Russia on March 29.
Football managers in Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic had already written a joint letter to FIFA and UEFA requesting that games in Russia be moved “based on the current alarming development in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine”.
Poland’s direct refusal to play against Russia anywhere is a dramatic new step that could have a huge impact on the World Cup qualifiers.
“And rightly so, Mr. President,” Duda wrote in response to a tweet from Kulesza revealing the news. “You do not play with bandits.”
Duda joined Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and their Lithuanian counterpart, Gitanas Nauseda, to sign a joint statement in Kiev on Wednesday condemning Russia.
The signing ceremony at the Mariinsky Palace in Kiev was held just one day before Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine.
Zelensky said on Friday night that he had talked to Duda and called him a “real friend” to Ukraine.
In a reaction that received a mixed response from fans, the Polish captain Lewandowski called the announcement of the game “the right decision”, adding that he “can not imagine” playing against Russia while what he described as “armed aggression” took place in Ukraine.
“Russian football players and fans are not responsible for this but we can not pretend that nothing happens,” Lewandowski said.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Thursday that his governing body will continue to monitor the situation.
“We will update on the World Cup qualifiers soon. We can make a decision immediately, as soon as needed,” Infantino added.
Poland failed to qualify for three straight tournaments before the 2018 World Cup in Russia and aims to reach the final for the ninth time in its history.
They ended up at the bottom of a group that included Colombia, Japan and the current Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal 2018.
Poland suffered the same fate in its group at the European Championships 2020 last summer. Lewandowski’s team played two of their three games in St. Louis. Petersburg during the tournament.