Czech Republic and Sweden unite with Poland in boycotting Russia play-off
The Czech Republic have joined Poland and Sweden in refusing to play Russia ahead of next month's UEFA World Cup qualifying play-offs.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, following weeks of rising political tensions in the region. The conflict escalated further on Friday, with the fighting reaching the capital city of Kyiv. There was intense fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, on Sunday.
It was confirmed by Poland's Football Association on Saturday that they would refuse to play their scheduled 'Path B' play-off semi-final against Russia.
Russia had been set to host Poland in March, but on Friday, UEFA said any international matches due to be held in Russia or Ukraine would have to be moved to a neutral venue, as well as confirming St Petersburg had been stripped of holding this season's Champions League final, which will now be played in Paris.
That followed a request from the Polish, Swedish and Czech FAs that Russia be barred from hosting any upcoming World Cup qualifiers. The winner of the tie between Poland and Russia would have been due to play either Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place at Qatar 2022.
Despite UEFA's declaration, the power to decide where the qualifiers are played and whether Russia can remain a part of them ultimately rests with world governing body FIFA.
Announcing their boycott, Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza said the three national associations were working to find a "common position" and that has now been achieved. The Swedish FA said on Saturday it was not possible to play Russia "regardless of where the match is played" and on Sunday the Czech FA took the same stance.
A statement posted on Twitter read: "The Czech FA executive committee, staff members and players of the national team agreed it's not possible to play against the Russian national team in the current situation, not even on the neutral venue. We all want the war to end as soon as possible."
Football's world governing body FIFA previously said in a statement that it "condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts. Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue".
It added: "FIFA also continues to express its solidarity to the people affected by this conflict.
"Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, FIFA will continue to monitor the situation and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will be communicated in due course."
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