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22 Feb, 2022 16:03

Poland wants World Cup qualifier moved from Moscow

Russian football officials say next month's match against Poland in Moscow must go ahead as planned
Poland wants World Cup qualifier moved from Moscow

The Russian Football Union has moved to dismiss suggestions from Polish Minister of Sports Kamil Bortniczuk that the World Cup qualifier between Russia and Poland, which is due to take place in the Dynamo Stadium in Moscow on March 24, should be moved to a neutral venue due to tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia and Poland are due to meet in the playoff semifinal next month, with the winners set to square off against the victors of the other semifinal between Czech Republic and Sweden, with a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar at stake. 

Polish Sports Minister Bortniczuk says the reasoning for the request is that Polish players should not be asked to travel to Russia. 

"We will try to play this match on a neutral field. If [the initiative] is not approved, we will think about what to do. I believe that in such a situation, Polish athletes should not go to Russia, but this is my personal opinion," Bortniczuk told a Polish radio station.

"I believe that the sports world should in no way consent to the practices of Vladimir Putin," he claimed. 

Reports also suggested that the Polish FA plans to contact both UEFA and FIFA to express their concerns about Moscow hosting the game, after the Kremlin moved this week to recognize the breakaway regions of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People's Republic (LPR). 

"Due to the tense political situation in the Russian Federation and Ukraine, as well as the possible outbreak of an armed conflict, the Polish Football Association turned to FIFA with a request to urgently clarify issues related to the organization of the match against Russia in Moscow," read a statement from the Polish football authorities. 

However, Russian football's governing body, the RFU, has remained steadfast to honoring the initial location of the fixture.

"In accordance with the calendar approved by UEFA, the Russian Football Union continues to prepare for the match with Poland on March 24 at the Dynamo Stadium in Moscow," they said. 

The request from the Polish FA comes several years after then-president of the group, Zbigniew Boniek, called for the 2018 World Cup to be moved from Russia due to relations with Ukraine.

"The agreement between FIFA and Russia should have a clause so that if a country is at war or is acting contrary to international law, it can remove the World Cup," said Boniek in 2015.

Russia were consigned to the World Cup qualification playoffs last November after a late own-goal from defender Fyodor Kudryashov resulted in a 1-0 defeat against Croatia in Split, leaving Valeri Karpin's men needing to bypass the Poles next month to qualify for Qatar.