'Glory To Ukraine': Is The New National Team's Soccer Slogan A Rallying Cry Or A Fascist Call?
The Ukrainian men's national soccer team debuted its new uniform with a victory, rankling some in Russia over the politically charged slogan featured on its players' jerseys.
The Ukrainian side for the first time wore jerseys reading "Glory to Ukraine!" as they defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 in their UEFA Nations League matchup.
The slogan has been increasingly embraced in Ukraine since the 2014 ouster of Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych amid the 2014 Euromaidan street protests and the subsequent war between Kyiv's forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Russian officials, meanwhile, have denounced the phrase as a fascist call, citing its use by Ukrainian nationalists that allied with -- and fell afoul of -- Nazi Germany as they fought for Ukrainian independence during World War II, and perpetrated atrocities against Jews and Poles.
FIFA, international soccer's governing body, in July fined a coach for Croatia's men's team and issued a warning to one of its players, Domagoj Vida, after the two appeared in a video in which Vida said "Glory to Ukraine!" following Croatia's World Cup victory over host Russia in Moscow.
FIFA forbids players from making political statements at the World Cup, though Vida and the coach, Ognjen Vukojevic, denied that the video had any political overtones.
A day before Ukraine's September 6 Nations League opener against the Czech Republic in Uherske Hradiste, some 300 kilometers southeast of Prague, Russian lawmaker Igor Lebedev said FIFA or UEFA should consider barring the slogan from Ukraine's jerseys.
"There is a very specific set of things that can be displayed: the country's name, the player's name, his number, and the country's coat of arms," Lebedev, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of the Russian Football Union's executive committee, told NTV television.
But the rules of UEFA, one of FIFA's six continental confederations, do allow a "team slogan" on jerseys and stipulate that only one such slogan can be used by a team during a single season.
"The kit in question has been accepted in accordance with the UEFA equipment regulations," the organization's press office said in an e-mailed statement.
Lebedev called UEFA's decision to permit the slogan on the Ukrainian team's jerseys "strange."
"Everyone knows perfectly well that the phrase 'Glory to Ukraine!' has a clear political context," he was quoted by the Russian website Sport24 as saying this week.
Armen Gasparian, a pro-K remlin journalist and political commentator, wrote on Twitter of UEFA's assessment: "I expected nothing less from this mafia."
Ahead of his country's game against the Czech Republic, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a September 6 tweet that he was confident that the slogan would become a "symbol of victory" for the team.
Poroshenko and other Ukrainian officials frequently punctuate their public appearances with the phrase, and the Ukrainian parliament on September 6 gave initial approval to a bill that would replace an official military greeting and response from the Soviet era with the exchange "Glory to Ukraine!" and "Glory to the heroes!"
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova last month criticized Ukraine's push to change the military greeting to what she described as a "Nazi call," the state-run TASS news agency reported . â
Unlike UEFA rules, the 2018 FIFA regulations do not identify slogans as permitted content for players' uniforms and other equipment.
The FIFA regulations allow uniforms to feature a member association's official emblem, mascot, symbol, and name; a foundation year, countryâs name, and national flag; and national team's nickname.
The rules state that "further messages" other than specially allowed âmarks and insigniaâ are forbidden.
A FIFA spokesperson said in a September 7 e-mail that the organization would not "speculate on a future scenario" concerning the phrase "Glory to Ukraine!"
Carl Schreck is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.SchreckC@rferl.org
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