Poland have announced they plan to boycott their upcoming World Cup qualifying play-off against Russia scheduled for next month in Moscow amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine
Matty Cash celebrated his opening goal in Aston Villa’s clash with Brighton on Saturday by removing his shirt to display a message of support for Polish teammate Tomasz Kedziora who is stuck in Ukraine.
Kedziora plays for Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine’s capital, where Russian troops are currently targeting with artillery fire as well as air and missile attacks.
The invasion has already had a devastating impact on Ukraine and its cities, with the country’s health minister confirming almost 200 people had been killed and more than a thousand wounded since the conflict began just a few days ago.
Residents have been fleeing the country in fear, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has refused an offer from the U.S Government to evacuate Kyiv as they continue to stand firm under Russian attacks.
Fixtures in Ukraine have understandably been postponed until further notice, but Cash’s international colleague Kedziora remains in Kyiv.
The Villa full-back took the opportunity to send a message to his Poland teammate after volleying home his side’s opener at the Amex Stadium.
After taking off his Villa jersey, he had written on his undershirt: “Tomasz Kedziora and family – stay strong bro”.
Despite Cash’s heartwarming gesture, as per the rules he was not afforded a reprieve by referee John Brooks, who promptly brandished a yellow card.
It comes after Poland’s national team announced they are refusing to play their upcoming World Cup play-off against Russia, scheduled to be played on March 24 in Moscow.
The match is a semi-final on Path B of the European qualifying play-offs for this year’s World Cup in Qatar. The winners were due to face Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place in the tournament.
The football federations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic issued a joint statement earlier this week to say they did not intend to play in Russia.
They called on FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA to offer “alternative solutions” but Poland have now decided to go further and boycott altogether.
Cash himself shared a statement from Poland’s players which read: “We, the players of the Polish national team, together with the Polish Football Association, decided that as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we do not intend to play in the play-off match against Russia.
“It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kiev with his family.”
Polish FA president Cezary Kulesza tweeted: “No more words, time to act! Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia.
“This is the only right decision. We are in talks with the federations of Sweden and the Czech Republic to bring forward a common position to FIFA.”
Retweeting an earlier post from Kulesza, Poland’s record goalscorer Lewandowski wrote: “It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues.
“Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”