The Polish FA says it would be a “shameful act” for the “entire football community” to face a Russian team in the World Cup playoffs, after criticising FIFA for its stance on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Global football’s governing body has decided against a total ban on Russia from international competition, but did not rule that out in future – saying the country was on its “final warning”.
Instead, in a similar move to the way the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee has dealt with Russia’s recent doping issues, FIFA has decided the nation will have to compete as the ‘Football Union of Russia’, with no flag and no national anthem at games, with all matches taken away from being hosted there.
Poland are due to face Russia in the World Cup playoff semi-finals next month, but its FA says they will refuse to do so. The potential next opponents, Sweden and Czech Republic, have already said they will take the same approach – leaving that section of the draw in chaos.
But FIFA’s move has been widely criticised for not being strong enough, and the president of Poland’s FA is among them.
“Today’s FIFA decision is totally unacceptable. We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances,” said Cezary Kulesza.
The Polish FA says the argument that sport and politics do not mix cannot be applied to Russia, as they have been continually hosting major international sporting events since the annexation of Crimea and the war of the Donbas region in Ukraine in 2014. It has urged sporting organisations to stop allowing Russia to use events as a demonstration of soft power.
“The current situation, this brutal aggression towards Ukraine, shows that politics and sports mix. It’s not true they are separate, especially for Russia,” Jakub Kwiatkowski, Poland’s team manager, told the BBC World Service this morning.
“FIFA is using the position of the IOC. We do not agree with this approach. For us it’s very clear, football is the most popular sport in the world. This is the sport with the most emotions, that’s why we decided that we are not going to play Russia in the playoffs.
“Regardless of the name of the team, for us the situation is very clear. We are not going to play and we do not intend to play any team from Russia.
For us, it could be a shameful act. Not only for the players but for the entire football community and contrary to the solidarity to the Ukrainian nation.
“FIFA has a special document, a human rights policy. Now this is the time for them to show that it’s not only the words on the paper but it’s time to act and put it into practice.”
England and Wales have both confirmed that none of its teams at any level will face Russia until further notice.