Czech footballers refuse to play Russia in crucial World Cup matches
The Czech Republic's Football Association has joined its counterparts in Poland and Sweden by boycotting a potential Qatar World Cup 2022 qualifying final against Russia in Moscow.
The Czech FA made its announcement on Sunday morning, saying that it wanted the Russian military operation in Ukraine to end "as soon as possible".
"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," it said.
"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." pic.twitter.com/NQK6YGNoHJ— Czech Football National Team (@ceskarepre_eng) February 27, 2022
The Czech Republic are scheduled to take on Sweden in Stockholm in a one-game Qatar 2022 qualification semifinal on March 24.
Poland were meant to travel to play Russia on the same date in Moscow, where the winners of each match have been drawn to play each other five days later.
Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic initially sent a letter earlier this week urging UEFA and FIFA to move the games in Russia to netural venues.
UEFA had already planned an extraordinary general meeting which decided that the Champions League final in May would move from St. Petersburg to Paris and ordered Russian teams to play in neutral venues.
Now all three teams want current and potential fixtures with Russia called off. Poland chiefs announced their stance first through FA head Czarek Kulesza, who received backing from his country's president, Andrzej Duda, and team captain Robert Lewandowski after publicly declaring on Saturday morning that his side would not fulfill their semifinal meeting with Russia.
The Swedish FA followed suit later that day in a statement containing support from the nation's Minister for Sports, Anders Ygeman.
"As long as the Russian aggression continues, I want the EU to make a decision that we should not have any participation in Russian events and we should exclude Russian professional practitioners from participating in events in other countries," Ygeman remarked in a statement.
In the same correspondence, Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson emphasized that the "illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine currently makes all football exchanges with Russia impossible".
"We therefore urge FIFA to decide that the playoff matches in March in which Russia participates will be canceled. But regardless of what FIFA chooses to do, we will not play against Russia in March," he added.
"We have a hard time believing that FIFA will not follow our call. Russia cannot join as long as this madness continues."
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said that the global football governing body will continue to monitor the situation.
"We will update on the World Cup qualifiers soon," Infantino vowed. "We can take decisions immediately, as soon as it’s needed."
With Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic effectively boycotting any fixtures that involve Russia, some of the decisions Infantino could have been planning to announce appear to have been made for him.