A 2022 World Cup playoff match in Russia is “almost unthinkable” at the moment, the chairman of the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) told Reuters following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.
Sweden are due to face the Czech Republic in a World Cup playoff Group B match on March 24, with the victor meeting the winner of the other group game between Poland and Russia.
Wins for Sweden and Russia would mean the two sides meeting in Russia on March 29, with a place at the Qatar World Cup at stake.
“It’s a possible scenario … spontaneously around 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.
Nilsson said that he had not been in touch with his contacts in Ukraine following the overnight attacks.
“Out thoughts go to our friends in Ukraine over the situation they woke up to today, it’s awful. Football should be seen as something of less importance in the middle of this inferno,” he said.
The 64-year-old former referee stopped short of demanding that the Russians be kicked out of the World Cup entirely.
“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 explained.
“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.”
The Swedish football boss said that the desires of the Ukrainians themselves 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,” he said.