The Euro, which begins this Friday evening with the Turkey-Italy opening match in Rome, is also a field of expression for geopolitical issues. From Great Britain to Turkey, via Ukraine and Russia.
Ukraine-Russia, the jersey of discord
If Russia and Ukraine are not in the same group at the Euro, the two countries face each other even before the start of the competition. In question, the jersey of Ukraine with, as a backdrop, the conflict between the two countries on the geopolitical level. Tensions have been recurring in Ukraine since the pro-Western came to power and Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. And what about this jersey? On the yellow tunic is the map of Ukraine with Crimea, the region annexed by Russia, and above all the words “Glory to our heroes” inside the collar. The double formula “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes”, taken from a patriotic song, had become a rallying cry during the pro-Western popular uprising in 2014 which ousted a president supported by the Kremlin, Viktor Yanukovych.
Faced with strong protests from Russia, UEFA has decided. Considering the slogan to be political in nature, she called on Ukraine to change her jersey. Reaction of the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova: “Be sports heroes and you will have glory, it is thus and not with nationalist slogans that you will honor the motherland. Sport is not a sport. battlefield, but of competition, it is not a political arena “. Russia did not win on all of its demands. UEFA has allowed Ukraine to keep the country’s map on its tunic. “Considering that the resolution 68/262 of the General Assembly of the United Nations (…) recognizes the territorial borders as represented in this drawing, the UEFA does not require any modification of this element”, specified the body. European. Ukraine say they are “negotiating” with UEFA to keep their jersey unchanged. The two countries cannot meet before the quarter-finals of the Euro. A real doubt exists as to the possible holding of a Ukraine-Russia match this summer …
A Scotland-England shock after Brexit
The British have checked the date in their diaries since the draw. On June 18 at Wembley, England face Scotland in Group D. The last confrontation between the two neighbors dates back to June 2017. It was before Brexit. However, the already immense rivalry between the English and the Scots could be even more exacerbated during this poster with very strong political resonance. Remember that the Scots were mostly in favor of maintaining the United Kingdom in the European Union during the vote on Brexit. In favor of the independence of Scotland, the Scottish Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, could welcome a victory of her players on the sports field against the Three Lions, the enemy neighbors.
Turkey under Erdogan’s influence
In Turkey more than in any other Euro nation, the links between football and politics are very close. The shadow of the Turkish head of state, a football fan (he would have played for Fenerbahçe and supports Basaksehir), still hovers above the national team. Many players, starting with Lille star Burak Yilmaz, have in the past lent their support to their president. “For Erdogan, there are many strong links with the players who do not hesitate to show their attachment to the political regime”, noted Thursday in the After, Kévin Veyssière, author of the book Football Club Geopolitic (editions Max Milo).
Two years ago, the opposition between France and Turkey had turned into controversy after the Turkish players gave the military salute in support of the army, engaged in an armed conflict against the Kurds in Syria. Three years later, the tension hasn’t subsided much. Erdogan is impatiently awaiting the Euro but also with a certain resentment towards UEFA. As reported by Le Monde, the head of state has not digested the five consecutive failures of his country for the organization of a European championship. Ditto for the relocation of the recent Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City in Porto, when it was to be held in Istanbul. A “political” decision for Erdogan … The Turkish president will not be in Rome to attend the opening match against Italy this Friday evening, but he will indeed be present in Baku, in Azerbaijan, an allied country of the Turkey, for the other two matches of the selection against Wales and Switzerland.
North Macedonia: the Euro to assert itself
Like Finland, North Macedonia is preparing to participate for the first time in its history in a final phase of the Euro. For this small country of the former Yugoslavia, as big as Brittany, the stakes are as much in sport as in geopolitics. After a diplomatic dispute with Greece over the name of Macedonia (which had historical value for the Greeks), an agreement was reached in 2018. This nation ranked 62nd in the Fifa rankings now wants to grow. “They joined NATO and seek to integrate the European Union, reminds Kévin Veyssière. Participating for the first time in the Euro makes it possible to put forward their flag, their nation and their beautiful generation of players who can carry high this team.” North Macedonia will face Austria on Sunday, before taking on Ukraine and the Netherlands.