Poland Leads European Nations In ‘Refusing To Play’ Russia In World Cup Soccer Playoffs

The Polish national soccer team led the way in announcements by several European nations that they will not play the Russian national team in 2022 World Cup playoff matches due to Russia’s unprovoked attack on neighboring Ukraine.

The BBC reported that Cezary Kulesza, President of the Polish Football Association, announced that it would not play in a scheduled match against the Russians. He said that the players decided together with the Polish Football Association to take action. The statement said that the decision was not easy, but there “are more important things in life than football.”

Kulesza posted on Twitter that the situation requires “no more words” and that it is “time to act!” Poland’s President Andrzej Duda replied to the post complimenting the decision, adding, “You don’t play with bandits!”

Robert Lewandowski, a member of the Polish team, said that he “can’t imagine” playing under the current circumstances. He acknowledged that the Russian team and fans are not responsible but said his team “can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

The national soccer teams from Sweden and the Czech Republic joined Poland in its decision shortly after that. Those two teams are playing each other in a scheduled playoff match, and the winner of that match would likely move on to play against the Russian team in the World Cup tournament.

The Swedish team posted a statement that it will refuse to play the Russian team regardless of where it is played. It also urged that the governing body cancel all matches in which Russia is scheduled to participate.

On Sunday, England’s Football Association announced that it will not play against Russia in any international soccer competitions for the “foreseeable future.” The association said that the decision comes in “solidarity with Ukraine” and “wholeheartedly condemns the atrocities being committed by the Russian leadership.”

The UK Premier League has seen Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who owns the league’s Chelsea Football Club, give up ownership of the team in professional soccer. The British Parliament pressured him to step down after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich said he is turning over ownership to a group of trustees with the “Club’s best interests at heart.”