UEFA, the governing body of European football, told Ukraine on Thursday it could keep a map showing Crimea on its new national jersey despite Russia’s objections, but had to remove the phrase “Glory to hero “because of military overtones.
Ukraine’s kit, which is slated to feature in the European Championship, has sparked rivalries with Moscow as it includes a blank map showing the Crimean Peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014 but which remains internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.
A slogan on the back reads “Glory to Ukraine” while inside the shirt is the words: “Glory to the Heroes” – a military greeting in Ukraine. Read more
UEFA said the map was not of concern as it reflected the UN-recognized borders, nor did the phrase “Glory to Ukraine”.
But he ordered the second sentence deleted, given that “the specific combination of the two slogans is considered to be clearly political in nature, with historical and militaristic significance,” according to a UEFA statement.
The move sparked backlash in Ukraine and angered neighboring Russia.
Ukraine had declared the shirt to be a symbol of national unity. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted a selfie on Instagram with the jersey this week and his office defended the slogans as “absolutely correct”.
“These sentences are written in the soul of every Ukrainian,” he said in a statement to Reuters.
Ukrainian Football Association chief Andriy Pavelko said he had traveled to Rome for emergency talks with UEFA, adding that UEFA had previously given preliminary approval for the design.
“This slogan has long been a traditional greeting for our fans at all stages and at all matches of the Ukrainian national team!” he wrote on Facebook. “It’s football and that’s why it was approved by UEFA.”
Pavelko said negotiations are ongoing.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev collapsed after the annexation of Crimea and the start of a Russian-backed separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014 which Kiev said left 14,000 dead.
“It is not for a state waging an aggressive war against Ukraine to nullify our glory. Although Russia dreams only of” abolishing “Ukraine,” former President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Facebook.
Opposition MP Oleksiy Goncharenko praised Ukrainians for flooding the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page with praise for the jersey design.
Commenting on the kit controversy, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said sport should not be mixed with politics.
“Sport is not a battlefield, but a place of competition; it is not a political arena but a sports arena. Become heroes of sport and you will have your glory,” she said.
Ukrainian slogans also sparked a row at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when Croatian defender Domagoj Vida apologized for using the words “Glory to Ukraine” in a video posted online.
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