A 2022 World Cup play-off match in Russia is “almost unthinkable” at the moment, the chairman of the Swedish Football Association has said after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.
Sweden are due to face the Czech Republic in a World Cup play-off on 24 March, with the victor meeting the winner of the game between Poland and Russia. Wins for Sweden and Russia would mean the sides meeting in Russia on 29 March, with a place at the Qatar World Cup at stake.
“The feelings we have as we wake up this morning are that it is almost unthinkable that we in a few weeks would play a football match in Russia,” Karl-Erik Nilsson told Reuters.
“As it looks here and now, today, there is absolutely no desire to play a football match in Russia,” he added.
Poland are due to play in Moscow on 24 March and wrote to Fifa on Tuesday calling for the governing body to “urgently clarify the issues” regarding the game amid concerns for player safety. The Polish FA confirmed to the Guardian on Thursday that it had yet to receive a response.
Nilsson said he had not been in touch with his contacts in Ukraine after the overnight attacks. “Out thoughts go to our friends in Ukraine over the situation they woke up to today – it’s awful,” he said. “Football should be seen as something of less importance in the middle of this inferno.”
The 64-year-old former referee stopped short of demanding that Russia be kicked out of the World Cup. “I believe that [in these situations] much is called for very quickly – we will need to live and socialise even in the future, and I think we shouldn’t be too quick with solutions,” he said.
“Instead, we should take our time and see what actions are needed. For the moment we are looking forward to arms being laid down and that peace and freedom come into existence.”
Nilsson said that the desires of the Ukrainians should guide football’s response. “It’s important that the requests come from Ukraine,” Nilsson said. “At the moment they have a lot more to think about than football, but a future will arrive one day and we mush show solidarity with our football friends around Europe.”
Uefa continues to assess its options regarding the Champions League final which is still scheduled to be played in St Petersburg.