Poland banishes Russia-based star from national team
Signing for Russian Premier League giants Spartak Moscow has ended the international career of Polish left-back Maciej Rybus.
The 32-year-old played for Lokomotiv Moscow for five years from 2017 and 2022, but joined cross-city rivals Spartak on a two-year deal as part of a free transfer earlier this month.
After sparking a domestic debate, the Polish FA announced on Monday that 66-cap international Rybus has been spoken to by Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz, who informed him of his fate.
"The coach of the Polish national team, Czeslaw Michniewicz, talked to Maciej Rybus, who was currently staying in Poland, after the training camp of the national team ended last week," began a short statement from the authority, known as the PZPN.
"The coach informed the player that, due to his current club situation, he would not be called up for the September training camp of the national team and would not take into account the team that would go to the World Cup in Qatar when determining the composition of the team," it was confirmed.
Reacting to the news, Spartak defended their player and said to TASS that although they couldn't comment on the decisions of the Polish FA, they have full faith in their player who is preparing himself to start a training camp with the rest of the first team.
Speaking to the Polish press last week when the controversy broke out, Rybus' agent Mariusz Piekarski cited family reasons as the primary motive behind the defender staying in Russia.
Had the Rybus family moved back to Poland, it was said, Rybus' two sons, who have Russian passports and with whom he shares with a Russian wife, would have been subjected to bullying given historical and current tensions between the two countries.
"We know the attitude of Poles towards Russia, but now I do not have to confirm it, it is enough to see what is happening on social media," Piekarski explained.
"If Maciej came to Poland and sent his children to kindergarten or school, it would not be a nice time. Children listen and transfer it to the playground. If he stays in Russia, his family is safe. You never know what would have happened."
Poland's Undersecretary of State for Security Marcin Przydacz didn't accept this, however, scoffing on Twitter that there was "nothing more embarrassing than covering up with the 'good of the family' when it simply comes [down] to big money," which he additionally described as "blood money".
"I hope there won't be a place for him in the national team. Playing with an eagle on your chest is an honor and only for those who understand it," Przydacz further balked.
Michniewicz refused to be drawn into commenting on the matter as Poland prepared for a Nations League tie against Belgium they lost 1-0, vowing that the matter would be dealt with afterward with Rybus out of the squad.
A week later, however, Michniewicz has kept his word and figures such as Przydacz have had their wishes fulfilled with Rybus now out of the fold.
Speaking to The Athletic, the Polish FA stressed that Rybus' exclusion has come as a consequence of deciding to continue his trade in Russia.
Elsewhere, though, his former international teammates Grzegorz Krychowiak and Sebastian Szymanski are still available for selection because they are "both willing to leave Russia."
Joining AEK Athens until the end of last season, midfielder Krychowiak made use of a temporary FIFA rule that allowed Russian-based players to unilaterally suspend their contracts when the conflict with Ukraine broke out, but is still under contract with Russian club Krasnodar.
Currently on Dynamo Moscow's books, Szymanski has been linked to Real Sociedad and a move to La Liga would keep his hopes of traveling to Qatar 2022 alive.
At the FIFA spectacle set to be played in winter, Poland have been drawn into Group C with Argentina, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.
Qualification to the tournament was achieved when Poland refused to head to Moscow to play Russia in a playoff semifinal on March 24 in protest at the military operation in Ukraine.
As Poland's President Andrzej Duda referred to Russians as "bandits" on Twitter and applauded the Polish FA's stance, Poland were given a bye by FIFA shortly before the global governing body and European counterpart UEFA banned Russian teams and clubs from international competitions.
Five days later than the scheduled semifinal, Poland then beat Sweden 2-0 in the playoff final as offensive anti-Russian chants were heard on the terraces of the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow.