On Sunday, the president of the Ukrainian Football Administration, Andriy Pavelko, revealed his country’s newest kit, which included a yellow shirt with a few Ukrainian slogans and an outline of the country — wait… is that Crimea?
That jersey, which the Ukrainian soccer team will be donning at the upcoming Euro 2020 Championship, is already the subject of controversy. The territory of Crimea — featured on the jerseys as part of Ukraine — was illegally annexed (read: invaded) by Russia in 2014. The territory is still disputed, with most of the international community on one side and Russia on the other. While the international community uninvolved in the annexation still recognizes Crimea as a territory of Ukraine, Russia does not. Furthering the Ukrainian’s attempt to stand up to Russia, the two slogans on the uniform translate to “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Glory to the heroes!” Both phrases are common Ukrainian military greetings.
As you could imagine, Russia is not taking too kindly to these new jerseys. A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry has referred to those phrases as nationalistic and reminiscent of Nazi rally cries during World War II. Russian politician Dmitry Svichev has called the new kits a “political provocation” and has been quoted saying it is “illegal” for Ukraine to show a map of their country that includes a Russian territory, despite the fact that Crimea is still recognized internationally as a Ukrainian territory.
There isn’t really much that Russia can do about the situation though. The kit has been approved by the Union of European Football Associations, and a statement from UEFA was released immediately after the uniforms were revealed stating “[the uniforms are] in accordance with the applicable equipment regulations.” Other bodies to express their support of the Ukrainian kit include the US Embassy in Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine), which tweeted out an image of the new jerseys with the caption “Love the new look. Glory to Ukraine! #CrimeaisUkraine”.
Ukraine’s first match of the Euro 2020 Championship is set for this Sunday, June 13, at 3 p.m. ET against the Netherlands. Ukraine is in Group C. Russia, in Group B, is playing host for several of the group-stage matches, and St. Petersburg will also be the venue for one of the quarterfinal matches on July 2. Therefore, it is possible that the Ukrainian team could end up playing a game in Russia if the cards fall accordingly. If they do, there’s no doubt there will be a lot of tension in the air at kickoff.