US and UK embassies show solidarity with Ukraine over new shirt

Ukraine’s football association adopted the phrase ‘Glory to the heroes’ as an official slogan on Friday, even though its use on the national team’s shirt has been banned by UEFA and caused outrage in Russia.

The US and British embassies in Kyiv showed solidarity with Ukraine over the new shirt, which is emblazoned with an outline map of Ukraine that includes Russia-annexed Crimea, by wearing it in photographs posted on Facebook.

“Can’t wait for kickoff on Sunday – don’t know who will win, but the Ukrainian team will look great!” a caption read below a photograph of the employees in the new kit that was posted on the U.S. embassy’s Facebook page.

Ukraine play the Netherlands in their first European Championship match on Sunday, and a spokesman confirmed the players planned to wear the new strip.

European soccer’s governing body UEFA told Ukraine on Thursday it could keep the outline map on the front of the shirt. But it said it must remove the phrase “Glory to the heroes” from inside the shirt because, as a military greeting, it has “historical and military” connotations.

Andriy Pavelko, the President of the Football Association of Ukraine, flew to Rome on Thursday for emergency talks with UEFA.

He said on Facebook that Ukrainian soccer executives had on Friday morning approved “Glory to Ukraine”, which also appears on the shirt, and “Glory to the heroes” as official national symbols.

They also approved the outline map of Ukraine including Crimea as the association’s official coat of arms, he said.

“Yes, we are going to play in this kit,” Oleksandr Glyvynsky, spokesperson for the Ukrainian team, told a televised news conference in Romania.

Ukraine has said the shirt is a symbol of national unity.

“We love the national football team’s new kit and thought that this was a great way to express our support,” U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Kristina Kvien said in a statement sent to Reuters. “We wear them (the kits) with pride in solidarity with Ukraine’s fight for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

President Vladimir Putin has been dismissive of the fuss over the kit but some Russian officials have objected to the outline map because Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The region is, however, internationally recognised as part of Ukraine.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv collapsed after the annexation of Crimea and the start of a Russian-backed separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine the same year.

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