Two republics that belonged to the late USSR (1922-1991), Ukraine and Russia increased geopolitical tensions between them for a footballing reason.
On the eve of the Euro Cup, Europe’s most important competition between national teams, which starts this Friday (11) – with a year late due to the Covid pandemic –, Ukraine presented the uniform they will be wearing.
In the color of the shirt, nothing new: the traditional yellow, which is more reminiscent of Swedish clothing than Brazil’s.
However, a design detail left the Russians indignant and/or irritated. In the center of the front of the shirt, around the emblem of the country’s federation, is the map of Ukraine.
And that map includes Crimea, a province in Ukrainian territory, in the southern part, which was annexed in 2014 by Russia, whose military troops occupied the region.
This took place through a referendum, in which the Crimean population of about 2 million people overwhelmingly agreed to what its residents call unification with Russia.
The Ukrainian government, however, never agreed with what happened, and the UN (United Nations) agrees, as it considers the referendum to be legal for having failed to comply with the resolution contained in the organization’s General Assembly.
Thus, most of the international community considers Crimea a Ukrainian territory under occupation by the Vladimir Putin regime.
In this context, the launch of the Ukraine national team shirt containing the Crimea generated enormous animosity towards the Kremlin.
It was presented on Sunday (6) by the president of the Ukrainian Football Federation, Andrii Pavelko.
“We believe that the map of Ukraine will give strength to the players, who will fight for all of Ukraine”, said the manager on social network. “All of Ukraine, from Sevastopol and Simferopol to Kiev [capital do país], from Donetsk and Luhansk to Uzhhorod, will support them.”
Of the six cities mentioned by Pavelko, two are located in Crimea: Sevastopol and Simferopol, which is the capital of the peninsula.
Russian MP Dmitri Svishchev considered the design on the shirt a “political provocation”, according to Russian news agency Ria, adding that it was illegal to show a map of Ukraine “which includes Russian territory”.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, going beyond her discontent with the map, mentioned, on social media, the two slogans that appear on the uniform (“Glory to the Ukraine!” and “Glory to the heroes!”) . According to her, they echo Nazi Germany’s war cry.
Aware or not of the stress resulting from the event, UEFA, the organizer of the Euro Cup, endorsed the new Ukrainian jersey, approving it for use in the tournament.
In this tense scenario, it’s all right that rivals won’t meet soon in the Euro. If they advance in their brackets, their first chance to duel is in the quarterfinals.
Russia is in Group B, alongside Belgium, Denmark and Finland, and Ukraine, in C, along with Austria, Netherlands and Northern Macedonia.
The Russians debut on Saturday (12), against the Belgians, in St. Petersburg. The Ukrainians play a day later, in Amsterdam, against the Dutch.