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Euro 2020 kit controversy: Ukraine jersey angers Russia

Kyle McKinnon AP
June 7, 2021

Ukraine's football association has included a geo-political dig at Russia in its Euro 2020 kit. The jersey features a map of the country including the Crimean Peninsula, which Russian annexed in 2014.

EURO 2020 Ukraine jersey
Ukraine's jersey features an outline of the country's borders including the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014Image: Stringer/AFP

There were no friendlies scheduled between Ukraine and Russia prior to the upcoming, coronavirus-delayed Euro 2020 European football championship. And you can bet there won't be any in the near future.

The Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) revealed the national squad's new uniforms on Sunday, with jerseys that highlight Ukraine's continuing claim to Crimea, the peninsula annexed by force by Russia in 2014. The jersey features an outline of Ukraine's border, and also sports the nationalist slogan, "Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes!"

The majority of the international community regards the annexation as illegal and still recognizes Crimea as Ukrainian territory. Russia also has cast its support behind separatists in eastern Ukraine, where seven years of fighting has killed more than 14,000 people.

UAF President Andrii Pavelko presented the new uniform on Facebook, hailing it as a symbol of the "single and undivided homeland'' that would inspire players to ''fight for entire Ukraine."

European soccer's governing body, UEFA, approved the jersey.

Angry words from Moscow

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the design a "desperate" measure, while one member of parliament, former boxer Nikolai Valuev, called the uniform an "unseemly attempt to politicize sports.''

"They can dream about what they want,'' Valuev said, "but Crimea is part of the Russian Federation and it's not up for discussion.''

Ukraine play friendly against Northern Ireland
Ukraine weren't wearing their new jerseys in a recent friendly against Northern IrelandImage: Photoshot/picture alliance

Another Russian lawmaker, Dmitry Svishchev, said the jersey was a political gesture designed to draw sports into politics.

"It's setting the stage for a conflict using the uniform,'' he said. "Sports arenas aren't for political declarations.''

Russia hosting tournament matches

Ukraine and Russia have both qualified for the 24-team tournament but a UEFA rule in place since 2014 to separate the two countries' national teams and club teams prevented them from being drawn together. The tournament draw also prevents Ukraine and Russia from facing each other in the round of 16.

In a tournament spread across 11 cities, Russia will host seven Euro 2020 games in St. Petersburg. None will involve Ukraine. The event was postponed by a year due the pandemic.

Kyle McKinnon x