Sports

Abramovich hands over Chelsea stewardship as World Cup rivals snub Russia



Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich has given trustees of the London side’s charitable foundation stewardship of the Premier League club.

Abramovich and Chelsea did not reveal why he was giving the foundation stewardship of the European champion club.

Yet several Russian individuals and entities have been put under sanctions by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich, who bought the London club in 2003, said on Saturday the foundation was in the “best position to look after the interests” of the club.

Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea lifts the FIFA Club World Cup trophy.

(Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

The news still came as a shock on the eve of Chelsea playing in Sunday’s League Cup final against Liverpool.

“I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities,” Abramovich said in a statement.

“I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values.”

Abramovich has himself not faced any sanctions yet. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said on Friday that uncertainty over Abramovich’s future was weighing on the club ahead of the final.

Meanwhile, Poland and Sweden say they won’t play their football World Cup qualifiers against Russia in March, following the invasion of Ukraine.

The play-off matches are set to be held in March to fill a slot for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and several Poland players including captain Robert Lewandowski backed the decision on Saturday with statements on social media.

“In light of the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the Polish national team is not going to play a match against Russian Republic,” Poland’s Football Association chief Cezary Kulesza wrote on Twitter.

Russia are scheduled to host Poland in the semi-finals of the World Cup play-offs on March 24 and, if the team advances, will host either Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 in the Path B final.

The Swedish FA later said that its team wouldn’t play the Russians regardless of where the match is played.

“The illegal and deeply unjust invasion of Ukraine currently makes all football exchanges with Russia impossible,” Swedish Football Association chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson said.

Earlier, Polish national team players took to social media to express their support for the move.

“It is not an easy decision, but there are more important things in life than football,” Kamil Glik, Mateusz Klich, Matty Cash and others wrote on Twitter.

“Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian nation and our friend from the national team, Tomasz Kedziora, who is still in Kiev with his family.”

National team captain Lewandowski tweeted: “I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues.”

“Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

Robert Lewandowski

(Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, whose wife was born in Ukraine, didn’t mince his words on Instagram.

“I refuse to play against players who choose to represent the values and principles of Russia,” he said.

“I refuse to take part in a sporting event that legitimates the actions of the Russian government.”

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Ski Federation says it does not want Russian athletes competing at upcoming World Cup races and world championships in Norway.

“Russia’s violations of international law and attacks on the Ukrainian people demand international condemnation and sanctions,” Norway’s federation said in a statement.

“The Norwegian Ski Federation’s message to Russia and Russian athletes is crystal clear – we do not want your participation.”

Ukraine’s former world boxing heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has appealed to the world to stop the conflict and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

Wladimir and his brother Vitali, also a former world heavyweight champion and now mayor of Kiev, have vowed to take up arms against invading Russian forces.

“I’m addressing the entire world to stop this war that Russia has started,” Klitschko said in a video posted online.

“There’s no time to wait because it’s going to lead into a humanitarian catastrophe. You need to act now to stop Russian aggression with anything you can have now. In an hour, or by tomorrow it’s going to be too late.”

Wladimir enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army earlier this month, saying at the time that his love for his country compelled him to defend it.

© AAP



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