UEFA tells Ukraine to remove 'political' slogan from Euro 2020 jersey after Russia complains

Ukraine is having to make some last-minute modifications to its Euro 2020 jersey.

UEFA has asked the Ukraine National Team to remove the "Glory to the heroes" slogan emblazoned on the kit. The request for removal comes after Russia complained about Ukraine's jersey.

As you likely know, Ukraine and Russia have a contemptuous history. Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 after the Ukrainian Revolution.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long considered Crimea part of Russia and his strong-arming of the area has brought international scorn. Ukraine and others have said that Russia’s move was a violation of international law. United States secretary of state Antony Blinken issued a statement in February titled “Crimea is Ukraine” on the seventh anniversary of the Russian invasion.

We call on Russia to immediately end its occupation of Crimea, release all Ukrainian political prisoners it unjustly holds, and return full control of the peninsula to Ukraine. We likewise call on Russia to end its aggression in eastern Ukraine. U.S. sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression in eastern Ukraine and seizure of Crimea will remain in place unless and until Russia reverses course. The United States does not, and will never, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea.

A picture taken on June 6, 2021 shows a EURO 2020 jersey of the Ukrainian national football team. - Ukraine provoked Moscow's ire on June 6, 2021 as its football federation unveiled Euro 2020 uniforms that feature Russian-annexed Crimea and nationalist slogans. The uniforms in the blue-and-yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag feature the silhouette of Ukraine that includes Russia-annexed Crimea and the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Lugansk as well as the words
Ukraine's Euro 2020 shirt features a map of the country that includes the Crimean Peninsula. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

Why Russia complained

Ukraine's jersey for Euro 2020 includes a map of the country as a silhouette. That map includes Crimea as part of the country. That inclusion drew Russia's ire, as did the slogan on the inside of the shirt. Russia also took issue with "Glory to Ukraine" on the shirt.

Russia claimed in its complaint that Ukraine was provoking it with the jersey. Glory to the heroes is used as an official military greeting in Ukraine along with "Glory to Ukraine."

The combination of the two phrases is why UEFA ordered Ukraine to remove one of the slogans. Per UEFA, the "specific combination of the two slogans is deemed to be clearly political in nature, having historic and militaristic significance"

FIFA and UEFA have a rule against political slogans at tournaments. UEFA said the map of Ukraine that includes Crimea was not in violation of the rule, but the combination of the two slogans was unclear to the sanctioning body at the time the shirt was approved in December.

"UEFA then carefully considered the recently added slogan on the inside of the collar 'Glory to [the] Heroes,' which was included in the new shirt sample submitted to UEFA which was subsequently validated in December 2020. At that time however, the significance created by the combination of the two slogans was not considered. Following further analysis, this specific combination of the two slogans is deemed to be clearly political in nature, having historic and militaristic significance. This specific slogan on the inside of the shirt must therefore be removed for use in UEFA competition matches, in accordance with Article 5 of the UEFA Equipment Regulations," it said.

Per Reuters, a Russian spokesperson even brazenly declared that sports should be politics-free. A Russian state department official had previously tried to say Ukraine should be banned from the tournament altogether.

"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," [the spokesperson] said.

Russia and Ukraine are not in the same Euro 2020 group and are not scheduled to play each other in the tournament unless they meet in the knockout rounds. Ukraine begins its Group C schedule on June 13 against the Netherlands.

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