UEFA today sided with Russia and instructed Ukraine to remove a “political” slogan from their Euro 2020 football shirts.
The governing body of European football said the “Honor our Heroes” message was “clearly political”, a rally during the 2014 anti-Russia protests in Ukraine.
Both sides took up the ruling immediately, with the Ukrainian Football Association claiming it was “in talks” to overturn the decision while Russia celebrated it as a victory after its angry complaint following the shirt’s unveiling on Sunday.
Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Sakharova wrote: “Sport is not a battlefield, it is a competitive field. Become athletic heroes and you will have fame. Do it this way and not with nationalist slogans. ‘
UEFA said that “Honor our Heroes”, a rally during the anti-Russia protests in Ukraine in 2014 written on the shirt (picture), was “clearly political in nature”.
“Glory to Ukraine” on the outside of the shirt was deemed acceptable because “by itself (it) can be seen as a general and apolitical expression of general national importance”
The shirt has a map showing Crimea, annexed by Russia, which Moscow regards as part of Russia. However, UEFA said the map does not need to be changed as a UN General Assembly resolution “recognizes the territorial boundaries as they are broadly represented by the design”.
But Ukrainian football bosses told AFP that “UEFA had previously approved the new shirt and every element of it, including the slogan.”
Russia on Tuesday sent a letter of complaint to UEFA about the yellow jersey, which also contains the outline of Ukraine, including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
UEFA said, however, that the map does not need to be changed as a UN General Assembly resolution “recognizes the territorial boundaries as they are roughly represented by the design”.
The slogan “Glory to Ukraine” has also been endorsed by UEFA as “in itself a general and apolitical expression of general national importance”.
This chant was used by protesters who deposed a Kremlin-backed leader during the Maidan demonstrations seven years ago.
The uprising was condemned by Moscow and sparked a crisis in relations between the two countries.
Russia annexed Crimea and supported Russian-speaking insurgents in eastern Ukraine in a bloody civil war that claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Tensions increased in April when Vladimir Putin sent thousands of soldiers, tanks and warships to Ukraine’s eastern border.
This led to calls from Washington and the EU to withdraw Russia for fear of invading mainland Ukraine.
Ukraine’s new jersey was unveiled on Sunday, just days before the tournament started on Friday, by the head of the Ukrainian Football Association, Andriy Pavelko.
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Zakharova immediately ridiculed the draft as a “desperate” gesture.
She also railed against the Ukrainian national slogan – “Glory to Ukraine, honor the heroes!” – written on the uniform. Sakharova claimed that the swear words were used by Ukrainian nationalists, some of whom fought alongside the Nazis against the Soviet Union during World War II.
The Crimean peninsula is shown at the bottom right of this map, surrounded by the Black Sea
Several Russian lawmakers have also opposed the design of the Ukrainian strip.
Dmitry Svishchev, a member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, condemned the Ukrainian uniform as a political gesture to bring sport into politics.
“It sets the stage for a conflict with the uniform,” he said. “Sports arenas are not there for political statements.”
Another Russian lawmaker, former professional boxer Nikolai Valuev, also condemned the Ukrainian uniform as an “unseemly attempt to politicize the sport”.
“You can dream what you want,” said Valuev, “but the Crimea is part of the Russian Federation and is not up for discussion.”
Ukraine and Russia have both qualified for the 24-team tournament, but a UEFA rule that has been in place since 2014 separating the two countries’ national and club teams prevented a draw.
The tournament draw also prevents Ukraine and Russia from clashing in the round of 16.
Russia will host seven Euro 2020 games in St. Petersburg. None will include Ukraine.