Ukraine's soccer jersey that infuriates Russia

The new shirt of the Ukraine soccer team has drawn ire in Russia. The yellow and blue kit includes the silhouette of the country’s map, which shows the Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow illegally annexed in 2014; also the slogans “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Glory to the heroes!” Now, on the eve of the Eurocup and after Russia’s protests to UEFA, which had already approved the shirt, the Swiss-based organization has demanded that Kiev withdraw the second sentence. The “specific combination of the two slogans,” a UEFA spokesperson via email noted Thursday, “is clearly considered political in nature.” The Ukraine Football Association is studying the petition with its lawyers.

The slogans “Glory to Ukraine!” —Included on the back of the shirt— and “Glory to the heroes!” -In the interior- they are a military salute in Ukraine, which has become popular as a patriotic song since the so-called Maidan revolution, the anti-corruption and pro-European protests that overthrew Kremlin ally President Victor Yanukovych who fled to Russia .

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin assured on Tuesday that he did not perceive “any change” in the shirt of Ukraine (of the Spanish brand Joma), members of his government, deputies and the directive of the Russian Football Union, which sent a letter of protest to UEFA, have reacted furiously to the new kit that Kiev presented this week, shortly before the start of the European Championship. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has mocked the mesh design with the neighboring country’s silhouette in white speckled relief and the internationally recognized borders of the country (with Crimea), as a “desperate artistic move” from Kiev. He also defined the slogans as “state propaganda” linked to nationalists who fought against the Soviet Union and alongside the Nazis.

The shirt of the Ukrainian soccer team with the motto “Glory to the heroes” inside, on the neck.FACEBOOK @ ANDRII PAVELKO / Reuters

The uniform, MP Dmitri Svishchev has said, is a “political gesture” and a “provocation”. “They are setting the stage for a conflict by wearing the uniform. Soccer stadiums are not for political statements, “said Svishchev, who said that showing Crimea on the Ukrainian shirt is” illegal. “

Seven years ago, after massive pro-European and anti-corruption protests in Ukraine that led to the overthrow and flight to Moscow of Kremlin allied President Victor Yanukovych, Russia annexed Crimea with a referendum not recognized by the international community and held with the Russian military presence on the Ukrainian peninsula. The war with pro-Russian separatists, supported militarily and politically by the Kremin, was beginning almost at the same time in northern Ukraine, in the Donbas region; It is the last armed conflict in Europe and has claimed some 14,000 lives, according to UN estimates.

The president of the Ukrainian soccer association, Andrii Pavelko, hailed the new uniform and stressed that it would inspire players to “fight for the whole of Ukraine”, “one and only homeland”.

The map on the Ukraine team's jersey encompasses its internationally recognized borders, with the Crimean peninsula and Donetsk and Luganks, where pro-Russian separatists fight with the support of the Kremlin.
The map on the Ukraine team’s jersey encompasses its internationally recognized borders, with the Crimean peninsula and Donetsk and Luganks, where pro-Russian separatists fight with the support of the Kremlin. AP

UEFA, which had approved the kit, has now reconsidered its position following official complaints from the Russian Football Union. It admits the silhouette of the map, because they are the territorial borders as stated in the UN resolutions; also the motto “Glory to Ukraine”. “This slogan alone can be considered a generic and apolitical phrase of general national importance and can therefore be used on the national team jersey,” says the organization. Not so, they explain, the slogan on the neck: ‘Glory to the heroes’, validated by UEFA in December last year. “At that time, the meaning created by the combination of the two slogans was not considered. Upon further analysis, the specific combination of the two phrases is clearly considered political in nature, with historical and militaristic significance, ”they say. “It should be removed for use in UEFA competition matches.”

While lawyers for the Ukraine Football Association are studying UEFA’s request, according to a spokesman, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski has stressed that the slogan “Glory to the heroes” cannot cause any reservations. “It is the motto engraved in the soul of every Ukrainian,” he told the newspaper. Pravda Ukraine.

Euro 2021 (was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic) is played from June 11 to July 11 in 11 cities, including Saint Petersburg (it will host seven games). Ukraine face the Netherlands in their first game on Sunday in Amsterdam.

Ukraine and Russia qualified for the 24-team tournament, but a UEFA rule in force since 2014 to separate the two countries’ national teams and club teams prevented them from joining in their groups. Also the tournament draw prevents Ukraine and Russia from meeting in the round of 16.

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