The Euro did not start on the ground as Russia has already won a first match… political. Called upon by Moscow, UEFA imposed on Thursday a modification of Ukraine’s jersey on the eve of the opening of the Euro football tournament, finally deeming “political” the mention “Glory to our heroes” denounced by the Russian authorities . “After a more in-depth analysis”, this slogan chanted during the popular anti-Russian uprising in Maidan in 2014, is “clearly of a political nature” and “must therefore be withdrawn (…) in view of UEFA’s competitive matches”, the instance said in a statement.
Unveiled on Sunday less than a week before the Euro which begins on Friday, the jerseys of the Ukrainian selection feature the map of Ukraine, Crimea included and that Moscow annexed in 2014, as well as the eastern territories, controlled by pro-Russian separatists. This map corresponds to the recognized borders of the country. Also included are the slogans “Glory to Ukraine!” Glory to the Heroes! », Formulas taken from a patriotic song and became a rallying cry during the popular uprising of Maidan in 2014, which ousted a president supported by the Kremlin, Viktor Yanukovych.
The presence of these slogans on the jersey drew criticism from Moscow, which associates them with World War II nationalist groups that fought the Soviets. Indignant, the Russian Football Federation (RFS) announced on Tuesday evening that it had written to UEFA to draw “attention to the use of political motives on the jersey of the Ukrainian national team, which goes against the principles Basic UEFA Kit Regulations ”.
“Football is a sport that must always be kept out of politics,” said the RFS press service, quoted by Russian news agencies. “By approving such an outfit, UEFA is setting a precedent, because at an upcoming big tournament, we could see other countries trying to use their equipment for political purposes,” he said, three days before the start of the Euro, where the two selections can meet at the earliest in the quarter-finals.
Moscow is therefore logically satisfied on Thursday that UEFA is changing the “nationalist” jersey of Ukraine, said the Foreign Ministry.
“It is the Ukrainian federation which set up this communication coup, the idea behind it was to throw a spotlight on the territorial conflict in Dombass and in Crimea, a conflict a little forgotten” analysis for Le Parisien Kévin Veyssière, author of “FC Geopolitics – 22 unusual stories to understand the world” which comes out this Thursday (Max Milo editions).
Ukrainian President poses with the jersey
An unlikely scenario could see the two nations face off in the final phase of the competition. The tension could then be at its height. Ukraine will be in Group C and Russia in Group B in the first round. Obviously, for his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the outfit, posting a photo on Instagram on Tuesday evening where he poses with the new jersey.
“The new jersey of the Ukrainian football team is indeed like no other. He can shock. It features several important symbols that unite Ukrainians, ”Zelensky wrote on Instagram. “Absolutely correct. They made an outfit unlike any other and shocking for Ukrainian football players, ”the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova, immediately responded to Telegram messaging.
The UEFA, which organizes the tournament, had originally indicated that these outfits of the Ukrainian selection had been approved “in accordance with the regulations concerned”. The latter indicates that no equipment should “undermine common decency or convey political, religious or race-related messages.” The president of the Ukrainian Football Association, Andriy Pavelko, assured that the shirt had been validated with UEFA “well before” its official presentation. He will therefore have to redo the production of jerseys in disaster this Thursday.