It’s been a light news week, thus the lack of posts of late. Which means that we are reduced to commenting on the latest silliness coming out of Ukraine, this time concerning the Ukrainian national football/soccer team’s shirts for the Euro 2020 tournament.
Euro 2020, as the name suggests, was meant to take place last year, but was postponed due to the covid pandemic, and is starting on Friday, when Turkey take on Italy in Rome. The Ukrainian team, which is meant to be quite good, is in Group C, alongside the Netherlands, Austria, and North Macedonia.
As the BBC reports, the Ukrainian team’s newly unveiled shirt has caused a little bit of a stink in Russia, as it shows a very faint map of Ukraine, including within its contours the Crimean peninsula. The BBC cites Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mariia Zakharova as complaining that the Ukrainians had thereby ‘attached Ukraine’s territory to Russia’s Crimea.’ creating the ‘illusion of the impossible.’
As so often, though, the BBC kind of misses the point, focusing on the issue of Crimea while ignoring the things which have done far more to rile up Russians, which are the appearance on the shirt of the Ukrainian trident and the slogan, ‘Glory to Ukraine’.
These, of course, are a symbol and slogan associated with the World War Two-era Ukrainian nationalist movement, the OUN-UPA, which collaborated with the German occupying forces. In the eyes of many Ukrainians, they have long since lost their collaborationist overtones, and become merely symbols of national independence. But some Ukrainians, and certainly most Russians, are unable to disassociate them from their fascist past. You wouldn’t, after all, shove a swastika on your team shirt, and argue that it’s not a Nazi thing, just an ancient spiritual symbol.
Somehow, this passes the BBC by. It makes a vague nod in the direction of acknowledging the Ukrainian slogan’s dodgy past, but in such a way as to make it out to seem entirely innocent, and complaints about it completely unjustified. Thus the BBC tells us that,
‘A slogan on the back reads “Glory to Ukraine!” – a patriotic chant used as a rallying cry by protesters who forced out a pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.’
The BBC then informs readers that Mariia Zakharova ‘said the slogan was nationalistic and echoed a Nazi rallying cry.’ What it doesn’t do is tell anybody that ‘Glory to Ukraine’ was used by people other than ‘protestors who forced out … Viktor Yanukovich’ (who wasn’t, incidentally, particularly ‘pro-Moscow’) and that Zakharova’s complaint about it being a ‘Nazi rallying cry’ is not completely devoid of truth.,
In short, bias by omission.
According to the head of the Ukrainian football association, Andriy Pavelko, ‘We believe that the silhouette of Ukraine will add strength to the players because they will fight for all Ukraine. And all Ukraine, from Sevastopol and Simferopol to Kyiv, from Donetsk and Lugansk to Uzhgorod will support them in every match.’
Yes, indeed, one can just imagine them cheering on the Ukrainian team in the sports bars in Sevastopol and Donetsk, celebrating with a resounding shout of ‘Slava Ukraini’ every time the boys in yellow score a goal.
As for the shirt – well, it’s a shirt. Nobody will pay much attention to it after the whistle blows. Let the games commence.