European football’s highest governing body UEFA on Thursday asked Ukraine to remove the phrase ‘Glory to the heroes!’ from its Euro 2020 jersey due to its military connotations and implications.
Ukraine’s newly unveiled kit to be featured in the upcoming European Championship became the talk of the football world and stirred controversy in Russia. The shirt included an outline map in white of Crimea, a territory that was annexed by Russia in 2014 but internationally recognized as a part of Ukraine. Furthermore, the shirt also carried a slogan ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ on the back and ‘Glory to the heroes!’ inside. ‘Glory to the heroes!’ is a common military greeting in Ukraine and their decision to use that slogan on their football kit was met with harsh criticism.
UEFA claimed that the map was not a concern and there’s no political controversy behind it as it is in accordance with United Nations’ recognized borders. The phrase ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ wasn’t problematic either as per UEFA.
However, they ordered Ukraine to remove the second phrase ‘Glory to the heroes!’. “Specific combination of the two slogans is deemed to be clearly political in nature, having historic and militaristic significance”, a UEFA statement said.
Controversy arose when the head of the Ukraine Football Association (UAF) Andriy Pavelko revealed the country’s Euro 2020 kit on his Facebook page just a few days before the tournament.
“We believe that Ukraine’s silhouette will give strength to the players because they will fight for all of Ukraine,” Pavelko said.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also posted a selfie wearing the shirt on his Instagram page and mentioned that it was a symbol of Ukraine’s national unity.
“It knows how to shock. It bears many important symbols that unify the Ukrainian people,” he added.
However, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova vehemently criticized the kits and called it as an attempt by Ukraine to create an ‘illusion of the impossible.’
“Sports is not a battlefield, but a place for competition; it is not a political arena but an athletic one. Become heroes of sports and you will have your glory,” she said.
As a result, Russia wrote a complain letter addressed to the European football’s governing body UEFA over Ukraine’s ‘political’ Euro 2020 kit. The Russian Football Union (RFS) argued that it “went against the basic principles” of the UEFA.