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Fifa sanctions Russia, rules it must play in neutral sites with no flag, anthem or fans

Meanwhile, president of the Polish Football Association, slams Fifa's decision as 'totally unacceptable' and calls for a total ban
Lazio team players wear a 'Stop the war' T-shirts referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as they arrive to warm-up prior to the Italian Serie A football match between Lazio and Napoli on 27 February (AFP/File photo)

Football’s governing body Fifa has ruled that the Russian national team must play all upcoming international games on neutral sites under the name "football union of Russia", among a list of other sanctions levied over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine

It also banned the Russian flag and anthem from being used in matches where teams from the Football Union of Russia participate. 

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“First and foremost, FIFA would like to reiterate its condemnation of the use of force by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine," the world football governing body said in a statement announcing the sanctions on Sunday. "Violence is never a solution and FIFA expresses its deepest solidarity to all people affected by what is happening in Ukraine." 

The decision, which it labelled as "initial", was made in coordination with UEFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Stopping short of completely ban Russia, the football association did warn that it "will continue its ongoing dialogue ... to determine any additional measures or sanctions, including a potential exclusion from competitions, that shall be applied in the near future should the situation not be improving rapidly."

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and England have all said they will not play Russia in any of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers next month.

Fifa acknowledged the boycotts, saying that they are in contact with the countries' football associations to find appropriate and acceptable solutions regarding the upcoming qualifiers. 

But Czarek Kulesza, president of the Polish Football Association, did not seem open to negotiations, slamming Fifa's decision as "totally unacceptable" and calling for a total ban. 

"We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances," Kulesza tweeted. "Our stance remains intact: Polish National Team will NOT PLAY with Russia, no matter what the name of the team is."

Russia had been scheduled to host Poland in a playoff semifinal on 24 March. The winner of that match was set to host either Sweden or Czech Republic on 29 March in the final of their World Cup qualification route.

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