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The Russian Football Association announced on Tuesday that it had written to the European Football Association (UEFA) to condemn the new shirt of the Ukrainian national team at the European Cup, which begins on Friday, because it has painted the Crimea and national emblems.
The Russian media quoted the local football federation as saying that in this letter addressed to the continental federation, “we draw attention to the use of slogans with a political background on the shirt of the Ukrainian national team, which contradicts the basic principles of the UEFA regulations regarding sports equipment.”
“Football is a sport that should be kept out of politics. By agreeing to such a uniform, UEFA is setting a precedent because in any next major tournament we will see other teams trying to use their uniforms for political messages.”
On Sunday, the Ukrainian national team shirts for the European Cup were unveiled, showing a map of Ukraine, including Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, as well as the eastern regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
Corresponding to the recognized state borders, this map also included the slogan “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”, phrases taken from a patriotic song that became a famous outcry during the 2014 popular uprising in central Kiev that ousted Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
The presence of these slogans on the shirt drew criticism from Moscow because it linked them to nationalist groups that fought the Soviets in World War II.
Ukraine participates in the European Cup in Group C along with the Netherlands, North Macedonia and Austria, while Russia plays in Group B along with Belgium, Finland and Denmark.
– ‘symbols of uniting Ukrainians’ –
Coinciding with the Russian message of protest addressed to the continental union, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the new jersey of the national team, which features “important symbols”, according to what he said on Instagram.
In response to the Russians, Zelensky wrote: “The new Ukrainian football jersey is truly unparalleled. It can be shocking. It bears many important symbols that unite Ukrainians.”
The relationship between Russia and Ukraine has been strained since the pro-Western forces came to power in Kiev in 2014, followed by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and a war between Kiev’s forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east that killed more than 13,000 people.
Since the beginning of the year, this conflict with the separatists has renewed, leaving dozens dead, and Kiev has accused Russia of seeking to “destroy” the Ukrainian state. Moscow, for its part, stressed that its maneuvers in the region “are not a threat to anyone,” and condemned Ukrainian “provocations.”
The European Union usually stresses the importance of moving away from politics in football, but in a statement to AFP, “UEFA” said that the Ukrainian jersey “has been approved by UEFA, in accordance with the applicable sports equipment regulations.”
According to the Confederation of Sports Equipment Regulations, it must not “offend public decency or transmit political, religious or ethnic messages”.
Most countries do not recognize Russia’s seizure of Crimea.
Ukrainian Football Federation president Andriy Pavelko said the design was agreed with UEFA “long before” the official presentation of the shirt on Sunday.
But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said European Cup organizers and fans “should know” that the Ukrainian rallying cry “simulates” a well-known Nazi slogan.
She also mocked the map, saying that the Ukrainian football team had “linked Ukrainian territory with Russia’s Crimea”.
© 2021 AFP