Poland icon cites ‘populism’ after Russia-based star banished
Polish football icon and former manager Zbigniew Boniek has cited "populism" in explaining the decision by head coach Czeslaw Michniewicz to rule Maciej Rybus out of contention for national team selection, after the defender opted to sign for Russian club Spartak Moscow.
Rybus, 32, was informed that he would not feature for the national team ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after choosing to remain in Russia at Spartak, having previously had a five-year spell with Lokomotiv Moscow.
“Due to his current club situation, [Rybus] would not be called up for the national team’s September training camp and will not take him into account when determining the composition of the team for the World Cup in Qatar,” the Polish Football Association (PZPN) said in a statement this week.
Rybus remains one of his country's most experienced defenders but is seemingly paying a price for refusing to seek a transfer out of Russia in the wake of the military campaign in Ukraine.
Indeed, Poland was one of the first football nations to take a stance against Russia by refusing to play a scheduled World Cup playoff fixture with Russia which was set for Moscow in March.
Russia were subsequently expelled from the playoffs and effectively barred from competing at the Qatar World Cup.
However, speaking to Polish media, Boniek suggested that the situation surrounding Rybus was partly "populist," and in reality the decision was made easier due to the fact that there is significant competition for his position at left-back.
“There is too much populism in all of this," Boniek Polsatsport.pl.
“The Polish handball team in the handball Champions League, Vive Kielce, scored an equalizer against Barcelona and it led to extra time thanks to a goal from a Belarusian [player]. And it didn't bother anyone.
“Today it was easy to make such a gesture [with Rybus], because Rybus is behind Bereszynski, Puchacz or Zalewski in the ranking of left-backs.
“It is easy to remove Rybus, who always has some injuries on the team.”
Some in Poland may welcome the decision, although others could view it as the player being 'cancelled' for refusing to sever ties in the country he has lived for the past five years. Rybus also has a Russian wife, with whom he has two sons.
“You can analyze the matter in different ways and reach different conclusions,” Boniek explained. “But now it is a bit like that who screams louder is right.”
Rybus made 136 appearances during his time in the Russian capital with Lokomotiv, and has one Russian Premier League winners' medal to his name, along with two Russian Cups and a Russian Super Cup.
He appeared for Poland eight times in 2021 but has not been selected so far in 2022.