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26th Feb 2022

Poland players release statement refusing to play Russia in World Cup play-off

Simon Lloyd

“There are more important things in life than football…”

Poland’s national team players have confirmed earlier reports that they will refuse to play their country’s World Cup play-off with Russia in protest at Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The play-off between the two nations was due to take place next month with the winners progressing to facing either Sweden or Czech Republic for a place at the World Cup in Qatar in November.

After a tweet earlier on Saturday from a member of the Polish FA appeared to confirm the move, a joint statement sent out by several of Poland’s team made certain of their intentions to boycott the play-off.

Aston Villa’s Matty Cash, who recently switched international allegiances to represent Poland, was amongst those to share the statement on social media.

“We, the players of the Polish national team, together with the Polish Football Association, decided that as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we do not intend to play in the play-off match against Russia,” the statement said.

“It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kędziora, who is still in Kiev with his family.”

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski added that it was the correct decision, in a tweet sent after he had shared the statement.

“I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues,” he said.

“Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

Since Russia’s invasion began on Thursday morning, Polish officials estimate that as many as 100,000 Ukrainians have passed over the border into their country as they attempt to escape arriving Russian troops.

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