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Ukraine-Russia football shirt row: UEFA tells Kyiv to remove 'political slogan' from EURO 2020 kit

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Ukraine's EURO 2020 shirt
Ukraine's EURO 2020 shirt   -   Copyright  Credit: AFP
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UEFA has told Ukraine that it must remove the slogan 'Glory to Our Heroes' from its EURO 2020 football shirt after a complaint from the Russian Football Union.

European football's governing body announced the decision on Thursday, arguing that because the slogan was coupled with the slogan 'Glory to Ukraine' it was an overtly political statement.

"This specific combination of the two slogans is deemed to be clearly political in nature, having historic and militaristic significance," UEFA said in a statement to Euronews.

"This specific slogan on the inside of the shirt must therefore be removed for use in UEFA competition matches."

'Glory to Our Heroes' was due to be displayed on the inside of the collar of the shirts worn by Ukraine players at the tournament, which starts on Friday.

The words were used in Ukraine during World War I as a rallying cry against Soviet rule and were popularised during the uprising that led to the ousting of Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin president in 2014.

Ukrainian officials say the words are now commonly used when greeting other citizens and have opposed the ruling.

"This slogan has long been a traditional greeting for our fans at all stadiums and at all matches of the national team of Ukraine," said Andriy Pavelko, the head of Ukraine's Football Association (UAF).

"The UAF has always respected international sports principles and followed the rules that the highest football authorities are governed in their work."

Pavelko said he had "urgently" flown to Rome to hold talks with UEFA representatives on the matter.

Учора ввечері ми отримали лист від УЄФА щодо нових рішень, які були прийняті стосовно форми національної збірної з...

Posted by Andrii Pavelko on Thursday, June 10, 2021

In their statement, UEFA said they did not require Ukraine to make any other modifications to the national team's shirt.

'Glory to Ukraine' is due to appear on the outside of the shirt, but UEFA said that, on its own, the words "may be considered as a generic and non-political phrase of general national significance" and violated no rules.

The shirt also featured the silhouette outline of a map of Ukraine that includes Crimea, the peninsula annexed in 2014 by Russia.

But Russia's complaint that the map of Ukraine includes Crimea was not upheld by UEFA because the international community does not recognise Moscow's annexation of the territory.

Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook that the shirt design was "state propaganda" and described the slogans as "nationalist".

Zakharova later greeted UEFA's ruling on Thursday, stating on Telegram that "sport is not a battlefield, but a field of competition."

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, has come out in support of the new kit, saying it contained "several important symbols that unite Ukrainians."

Zelenskyy also warned UEFA against making decisions under "political influence".

Ukraine is due to play their first group game against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Sunday. While a UEFA rule prevents Russia and Ukraine from being drawn together, the two countries could meet in the Quarter-Finals later in the tournament.