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With a Nazi jersey to the EM

Ultra-nationalism instead of international understanding: Ukraine provokes once again with far-right allusions. UEFA’s (temporary) approval of the operation was scandalous – but the organisation has now reacted. Reactions in parts of the German press and double standards in parts of the otherwise loud warners against right-wing extremism remain problematic. A politicisation of sport must be opposed in principle.

The European Football Championship will open tomorrow (June 11) with the Italy-Turkey match. That is very gratifying. The European Championship not only offers the prospect of exciting sporting entertainment, but also – at least potentially – the chance of living international understanding.

But Ukraine is countering the idea of possible international understanding in a space temporarily liberated from geopolitics by misusing the jerseys of its national team for scandalous political statements. Equally scandalous was UEFA’s temporary endorsement of this propaganda. After all, in the meantime UEFA has asked Ukraine to remove the slogan. What remains problematic is the behaviour of sections of Western politicians and journalists towards the fact that the slogan “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes”, which is closely linked to historical Nazi collaborators, can now be read on the jerseys. In addition, on the jerseys Crimea is marked as part of the territory of Ukraine.

Against the politicisation of sport

Politicization of sporting events is to be rejected-especially when it comes to international meetings. If this rule is broken, such sporting events lose their last vestiges of credibility in terms of their contribution to international understanding and potentially turn into the opposite: an international stage of mutual resentment. We cannot tolerate this.

That is why UEFA’s temporary silence on the rightly controversial jerseys of the Ukrainian national football team was untenable and a politically partisan move. Better late than never: it is to be welcomed that UEFA has now reacted after initially granting permission for the jerseys. However, according to media reports, only the aforementioned slogan is criticized, but not the representation of Crimea as an official part of Ukraine.

Many aspects of organisations such as UEFA or the commercialisation of sport can be severely criticised. But still, international meetings like the upcoming European Football Championship can potentially serve positively as one of the last bridges between peoples when the other bridges are torpedoed by politics.

Double standards in right-wing extremism

In fact, there is widespread consensus that international sporting events should not be a stage for political propaganda, at least officially. But Ukraine has now( once again) been granted a special role – fortunately only temporarily. Once again, the silence of the Western Maidan supporters on the incident was interesting – especially the silence of those personnel who otherwise (if it fits into the political concept) can not often enough warn of a far-right danger.

The far-right danger, which has long since become a far-right reality in Ukraine, has long been simply hidden and concealed by Western politicians and the media. This phenomenon has already been observed in the face of the Maidan revolution, which was carried out with quite open right-wing extremist participation. Currently, the double standards of numerous Western media regarding right-wing extremism are reflected among many others in the trivializing description of right-wing extremist Krawalny as an “opposition politician” or of the arrested in Belarus, associated with right-wing extremists Roman Protassevich, who is not in vain afraid of extradition to Luhansk.

Widespread historical fragmentation

International sport, if it fits into the political concept, is used as a weapon in geopolitical conflicts. In the run-up to the World Cup in Russia, for example, massive and destructive politicization was observed. The (non-)reaction of parts of the German press to the current provocation by Ukraine in recent days negated two things: On the one hand, the highly problematic history of the slogan printed on the jerseys, which must be described as an open historical fragmentation, and on the other hand, the actually valid rule of apolitical sports.

Thus, the “Spiegel” described the jersey conflict, which actually requires a principled outrage over this propagandistic instrumentalization of the European Championship, as a “Russian” problem and headlined: “Russia is angry about jerseys of Ukraine”. Accordingly, the “Spiegel” editorial team does not seem to be “annoyed” by this. As for the Crimea, the magazine practices the usual shortening account of the process. Completely distorting is the “mirror” description of the slogan addressed here:

“The slogan"Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes” printed on the jerseys is also criticized. For decades, he has stood for Ukraine’s struggle for independence."

That the problematic formula can also be classified more seriously by large media, shows for example this older Article in the MDR:

“For although” Glory of Ukraine “dates back to the time of the struggle for independence in 1917/18, the formula is particularly associated, especially in the variant with the"hero “answer, but with the” Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists”, short OUN um Stepan Bandera. Bandera and the OUN had fought between the world wars for a Ukraine independent of Soviet Russia-and during the Second World War also collaborated with Hitler’s Wehrmacht…

After the war, the saying first fell into oblivion, but in the perestroika at the end of the 1980s it was repeatedly taken up by, above all, right-wing radical groups, including the controversial “Ukrainian National Self-Defense” (UNSO).”

During the Maidan revolution, the slogan experienced a broad renaissance in parts of Ukraine, but it is now accepted into the political mainstream, which cannot free it from its historical roots. Which groups in Ukraine like to use the saying to this day, show for example these shots of Ukrainian right-wing extremists, as the “Anti-Spiegel reports”:

Slogan is not an innocent formula for independence

The" ahistorical “attempt to draw the slogan like the” mirror " as an innocent slogan of the Ukrainian struggle for independence, Maria Zakharova (mid.ru) as quoted by RT:

“The greeting completely copies its counterpart at the German Nazis. In the years of the war, this Nazi salute was used in military and paramilitary Ukrainian nationalist armed formations. The majority of these formations were loyal to the Third Reich, some of them were also organizationally assigned to its armed forces. After the war, the tradition of Bandera greeting was preserved and cultivated by underground gangs in Western Ukraine-as well as by UPA fighters who surrendered to US troops and thus managed to save themselves from justice in the West, where they spent their retirement.”

With a more principled statement, which can only be agreed with, in the same article Dmitry Svishchev is quoted from the Russian State Duma:

“Political declarations should have no place in sports stadiums.”

UEFA’s silence

It was also for this fundamental reason, as I said, that it was a scandal that the jerseys were initially officially approved by UEFA. When asked by RT why UEFA allows such political statements on a jersey and whether there are already precedents for jerseys to contain nationalist slogans, UEFA’s press service only answered a few days ago: 

“The jerseys of the National team of Ukraine (and all other teams) for the European Championship were approved by UEFA in accordance with the applicable rules regarding equipment.”

In the meantime, as I said, UEFA has changed its position.