The sporting world has come together against Russia in the wake of its inhumane invasion of Ukraine. Sports’ top entities, including football, Formula 1, Olympics, and more, have all voiced their opinion on banning the country from competing.
PFA president, Cezary Kulesza declared that the Polish national team will refuse to play their World Cup playoff opponents next month. Taking to Twitter, Kulesza called for the world “to act” against Russia due to the “escalation of aggression towards Ukraine.
“The Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia. This is the only right decision. We are in talks with Swedish and Czech association to bring forward a joint statement to FIFA.”
The decision to boycott Russia had been immediately backed by its players, with Robert Lewandowski and Wojciech Szczesny both taking to social media. The Bayern Munich hotshot believes it is the “right decision” to boycott the game, although he feels “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this.”
While the former Arsenal goalkeeper, now with Juventus, also voiced strong support for the decision on his Instagram account. The Polish shot-stopper confessed, “although my heart breaks while writing this, my conscience will not let me play … I refuse to play against players who represent the values and principles of Russia!”
In a separate statement, the Poland team said: “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. It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football.”
Sweden, a potential future opponent of Russia in the playoffs, later said they would also refuse to play them “regardless of where the match is played.” Russia had been due to host Poland in “Path B” of the European qualifying playoff semi-finals on March 24th. The winners would progress to face either Sweden, or Czech Republic for a place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
“The Federal Board also urges FIFA to cancel the play-off matches in March in which Russia participates.” Sweden proposes boycotting all competitions hosted in Russia, with further proposals suggesting no Russian athlete can compete in the European Union.
UEFA are also believed to be considering a termination of the reported €40 million per year sponsorship contract with Russian gas giant, Gazprom. The European footballing authority has already punished Russia by stripping St. Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena of the Champions League final.
Further sporting entities have joined in the debate to boycott Russia, with Formula 1 confirming it has cancelled the Russian Grand Prix. In last night’s statement, the F1 said it was “watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock,” before cancelling the event.
“Formula 1, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.”
Reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen and former champion Sebastian Vettel said it would be wrong for it to go ahead. Launching a ferocious attack on Ukraine, Russia killed dozens of people in the early hours, with numbers rising to their hundreds.
Speaking in a press conference at pre-season testing, Vettel said he thinks “it’s horrible to see what is happening. Obviously if you look at the calendar, we have a race scheduled in Russia. For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country. I’m sorry for the people, innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed for stupid reasons and a very, very strange and mad leadership.”
The International Biathlon Union (IBU) has also acted against Russia by barring its national flag from being flown at sports events. The decision came after calls from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for sports federations to bar the respective national flags of Russia and Belarus. It confirmed that “no Russian or Belarusian flags, symbols or national emblems can be displayed at the venue. Instead of the countries’ flags, the IBU flag shall be displayed.”
Although Russian and Belarus athletes are still permitted to compete in remaining events, they can only do so as neutral competitors. However, the penultimate event will be held in Otepaeae from March 10th-13th and Estonia have barred Russia and Belarus from entering the country.