Albania refuses to play Russia in UEFA Nations League games

Feb 26, 2022, 10:26 PM | Updated: Feb 27, 2022, 12:27 pm

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s government joined the wave of European opposition on Sunday to playing any sports games against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

The move was notable as Albania is among the few national teams in men’s soccer with games scheduled soon against Russia in official competitions.

Albania is due to host Russia in Tirana on June 2 in the group stage of the UEFA Nations League competition. The return game is on June 13 though UEFA ruled Friday that Russian teams must find neutral venues for its home games.

“Albania will not take part in any sport games with the Russian Federation until the end of Ukraine’s occupation,” Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka said Sunday.

Iceland and Israel have also been drawn in the same group in the second-tier section of the Nations League. Those federations have not stated their position about playing Russia.

Poland’s soccer federation has refused to play Russia in a 2022 World Cup qualifying playoff that was scheduled March 24 in Moscow. That game is organized by FIFA, which said Sunday only that the Russian team could play at a neutral venue, must be named for its soccer federation as “RFU” and could not use the national flag or anthem.

The winner of Russia-Poland was set to host Sweden or the Czech Republic five days later for a place at the World Cup in Qatar. Both those potential opponents have also refused to play Russia.

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