Russia star says Poland footballers went too far
Russia defender Georgi Dzhikiya has criticized his country's World Cup qualifier semi-final opponents Poland for the lengths they went to not play against his country last month.
Russia and Poland were meant to meet each other in Moscow on March 24. That was until Polish FA chief Czarek Kulesza announced the visitors would not honor the fixture as a response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine, however, with backing from president Andrzej Duda plus captain and star player Robert Lewandowski.
Sweden and the Czech Republic also refused to take on Russia in a potential final in the Russian capital five days later, but a FIFA and UEFA ban on Russian national teams and clubs meant that Poland were given a bye.
Poland beat the Swedes 2-0 in the final in Warsaw and booked their tickets to Qatar later this year amid chants of 'Ruska kurwa', which can roughly be translated to 'Russian whores'.
Just over a fortnight later, Dzhikiya has remarked on his disappointment with not being able to play against Lewandowski on a podcast appearance plus the reactions of the Polish players who were unwilling to compete against his team.
"To be honest, I was very surprised by the statements of the players [of the Polish national team] before the decision on this whole situation," he said on the More Sports program.
"I think they went a little too far with their statements in this regard," the Spartak Moscow number 14 added.
After Kulesza announced that Poland did not intend to play against Russia, Polish leader Duda tweeted: "And rightly so, Mr. President. You don't play with bandits."
Bayern Munich ace Lewandowski then chimed in with a response that received a mixed reception, and said that the announcement about the semi-final was the "the right decision" while adding that he "can’t imagine" taking on Russia while what he described as "armed aggression" was taking place in Ukraine.
"Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening," the reigning FIFA The Best award winner also stated.
While the Russian Football Union (RFU) waits for a decision from the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) on whether its women's team can play at Euro 2022 in England this summer, the men's team must now look forward to qualifying for Euro 2024 with the RFU having also declared interest in hosting Euro 2028 or 2032 despite the UEFA ban.