Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic refuse to play Russia in World Cup playoffs_laser freckle removal hurt

Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic refuse to play Russia in World Cup playoffsThe Czech Republic joined Poland and Sweden on Sunday in refusing to play Russia in the 2022 World Cup qualifying playoffs next month in response to that nation's invasion of Ukraine.

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'No more words, time to act!' says Polish soccer federation president

The Associated Press(Kirill Kudryavtsev/The Associated Press)

The Czech Republic joined Poland and Sweden on Sunday in refusing to play Russia in the 2022 World Cup qualifying playoffs next month in response to that nation's invasion of Ukraine.

The head of world champion France's soccer federation also moved against the Russians, saying Sunday he favoured excluding them from the competition.

Russia is scheduled to host Poland in Moscow for a playoff semifinal on March 24, with the winner due to host Sweden or the Czech Republic five days later. The winner on March 29 would advance to the World Cup being played in Qatar from Nov. 21-Dec. 18.

  • Ukraine invasion puts Russia's elite sports status at risk

Polish soccer federation president Cezary Kulesza announced Poland's decision on Saturday and said it was in talks with other federations to present a unified position to FIFA, which is responsible for the game in Moscow.

"No more words, time to act!" Kulesza wrote on Twitter, adding the move was prompted by the "escalation of the aggression."

No more words, time to act! Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia. We are in talks with 🇸🇪 and 🇨🇿 federations to bring forward a joint statement to FIFA.

—@Czarek_Kulesza

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny were among those supporting the decision.

Sweden, a potential opponent of Russia in next month's playoffs, later joined Poland in declaring its national team would not play a match against the Russians regardless of where it takes place.

"The illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine currently makes all football fixtures with Russia impossible," said Karl-Erik Nilsson, the Swedish federation's chairman. "We therefore urge FIFA to decide that the playoff matches in March in which Russia participates will be cancelled.

"We have a hard time believing that FIFA will not follow our call. Russia can not join as long as this madness continues."

Nilsson is also first vice president at UEFA which has stripped Russia of hosting the Champions League final in St. Petersburg in May. UEFA decided Friday to move that game to Paris, and said Russian and Ukrainian teams in its competitions must play home games in neutral countries.

  • Russia loses Champions League final to Paris, Sochi F1 race dropped

The Czech soccer federation said on Sunday its executive committee "unanimously approved a decision that the Czech national team will not in any case play Russia."

FIFA and its president Gianni Infantino have not taken a clear public position on Russia, the 2018 World Cup host, since the military invasion was launched Thursday.

The Czech federation said its head, Petr Fousek, will lead negotiations with FIFA and UEFA about its position.

"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," the federation said in a statement. "We all want the war to end as soon as possible."

WATCH l Soccer world responds to Russian invasion of Ukraine:

UEFA, Schalke 04 & soccer federations respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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FIFA's current options

FIFA's current options include removing Russia from the World Cup or letting it advance to the finals tournament by accepting the withdrawal of the three other teams in its playoff bracket.

A strict reading of FIFA's World Cup regulations would even make the Polish, Swedish and Czech federations liable to disciplinary action and having to pay fines and compensation.

In 1992, however, FIFA and UEFA removed Yugoslavia from its competitions following United Nations sanctions imposed when war broke out in the Balkans.

In France, the soccer federation president Noel Le Graet told the Le Parisien daily Sunday that he was leaning toward excluding Russia from the World Cup.

"The world of sport, and in particular football, cannot remain neutral," said Le Graet, who sits on the ruling FIFA Council and has recently been a close ally of Infantino.

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Any FIFA decision on Russia would likely come from its Bureau, chaired by Infantino and including the presidents of soccer's six continental governing bodies, including UEFA's Aleksander Ceferin.

UEFA allowed Spartak Moscow to continue playing in the second-tier Europa League's round of 16.

As the attack of Ukraine entered a fourth day on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin temporarily lost his most senior official position in world sports. The International Judo Federation cited "the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine" for suspending Putin's honorary president status.

  • World judo body suspends Vladimir Putin as honorary president

The Russian president is a keen judoka and attended the sport at the 2012 London Olympics.

In Putin's other favourite sport, ice hockey, Latvian club Dinamo Riga withdrew Sunday from the Russian-owned and run Kontinental Hockey League citing the "military and humanitarian crisis."

'We can't pretend that nothing is happening'

Lewandowski, Poland's all-time leading scorer and winner of FIFA's best-player award for the past two years, supported Kulesza's announcement.

"I can't imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues," the Bayern Munich striker said on Twitter. "Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can't pretend that nothing is happening."

As an athlete, I can't pretend nothing is happening🇺🇦 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StandWithUkraine?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StandWithUkraine</a> <a href="https://t.co/eL0ccpJhdG">pic.twitter.com/eL0ccpJhdG</a>

&mdash;@lewy_official

Previously, Poland had only said it did not want to play the qualifying playoff semifinal in Moscow.

In other sports, Norway's ski federation said Saturday that Russian skiers are not welcome to compete in the Nordic country because of Russia's "violations of international law and attacks on the Ukrainian people."

Norway's call directly contradicts International Ski Federation (FIS) policy announced late Friday and comes days after the winter sport power topped the Beijing Olympics medal table with a record 16 golds.

Russia's military invasion of Ukraine since Thursday requires "international condemnation and sanctions," the Norwegian federation said.

On Friday, FIS pulled its remaining World Cup events this season from Russia but later allowed Russians to carry on competing.

  • Norway ski body says Russians not welcome to compete there
  • World ski body cancels all upcoming events in Russia

In a statement Saturday, the International Gymnastics Federation said: "All FIG-sanctioned events planned to take place in Russia and Belarus are removed from the FIG calendar and will no longer be recognized by the FIG. No other events taking place in Russia and Belarus will be sanctioned by the FIG until further notice."

FIG President Morinari Watanabe said: "Our thoughts go to the members of the Gymnastics community in Ukraine. Sport is friendship and solidarity. We must show solidarity with the members of our family who are in despair and offer them a helping hand to ensure their future."

In Madrid, the Russian flag and anthem were absent before the match between the Russia women rugby team and Spain. The hosts won 27-0 to become Rugby Europe champion. That came a day after Rugby Europe suspended all events in Russia.

Russia withdrew its team from the biathlon World Cup series on Saturday in protest at new restrictions. The International Biathlon Union had ordered the Russia and Belarus teams to compete as "neutral athletes" without their country's flag and anthem so that emblems of the two countries would not be on display.

Kyiv residents braced Saturday for another night sheltering underground, as Russian troops closed in on Ukraine's capital and skirmishes were reported on the outskirts. Ukraine's leader claimed that Ukraine's forces had repulsed the assault and vowed to keep fighting. "We will win," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

WATCH | Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev makes plea for no war in Ukraine:

Russian tennis star writes 'No War Please' on camera, after match

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