Swedish sports minister calls for EU to exile Russians over ‘illegal and deeply unjust invasion’

The Swedish Football Association has called all matches involving Russia ‘impossible’

The European Union (EU) should exclude Russian sportspeople from competing abroad, Sweden’s sports minister has urged while the country’s football association insisted Russia’s World Cup 2022 playoffs scheduled for March should be canceled.

Along with its Polish and Czech counterparts, the Swedish FA issued a letter on Thursday urging FIFA and UEFA to move matches in Russia because of fears over the safety of players. 

Poland are scheduled to play Russia in the semifinals in Moscow on March 24. The Czech Republic or Sweden, who play in Stockholm on the same evening, will be due to head to Russia for the final if Valeri Karpin’s side prevail.

Polish FA Czarek Kulesza was backed by his country’s president, Andrzej Duda, and star striker Robert Lewandowski after publicly declaring on Saturday that his side would not fulfil the fixture.

Sweden’s football federation joins Poland in refusing to play against Russia if they are required to meet them in 2022 World Cup playoffs pic.twitter.com/UTqQZpK98W

— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 26, 2022

Now the Swedish FA has made an announcement with support from Sweden’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 said in a statement.

Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson said 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 emphasized.

“We have a hard time believing that FIFA will not follow our call. Russia cannot join as long as this madness continues.”

In response to Thursday’s letter, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said that his global football governing body will continue to monitor the situation.

“We will update on the World Cup qualifiers soon,” Infantino pledged, although he is yet to react to the latest developments. “We can take decisions immediately, as soon as it’s needed.”

A UEFA ruling on Friday following an extraordinary general meeting had already seen Russian teams forced to play their fixtures at neutral venues.

The verdict from European football’s administrative body also moved the Champions League final in May from St. Petersburg to Paris.

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