Euro 2020 account clarifies controversial “eagle gesture” of a Russian player in a post

The official account of UEFA Euro 2020 in St. Petersburg was under fire following a controversial banner featuring Russian players with one player making a double-headed eagle salute with his hands. The said post from the official account came in the wake of Russia’s encounter with Serbia that makes it more controversial as it was deemed politically provocative.

The Twitter post contains Russia’s set of fixtures in the upcoming UEFA Nations League. Along with the full schedule of Russia’s matches, the publication also had a picture of three national players, with Fedor Smolov making the controversial salute. Many football fans reacted against Smolov’s gesture, while some notes that the photos came from an old post that was approved by FIFA.

“Ahead of Russia’s game against Serbia a photo post emerges showing Fedor Smolov making an eagle with his hands. It’s all ok. BUT! This is a symbol of an Albanian eagle. This i`s a symbol of genocide for Serbia. God, who put this idea into Smolov’s head? And this happens ahead of the match against Serbia!” a user wrote.

The double-headed eagle is a symbol of the Albanian flag, and has a deeper connection with Albanian independence. In 2008, Kosovo, which is mostly populated by Albanians, separated from Serbia and was made a FIFA member in 2016. However, its independence remains a contentious political issue, as it has not been recognized by other countries, including Serbia and Russia.

The account was forced to clarify the matter in a statement separate post. “Russian player’s gesture has no political representation. This was an expressive interpretation of the Russian coat of arms which was behind Fedor. We are sorry that the gesture was wrongly interpreted. We didn’t intend to offend anyone. This was our mistake,” the account said shortly afterdeleting the banner from its page.

It is learnt that Saint Petersburg Stadium will host all Russian games. Last month, the head of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Russia-2020 have announced over 40 Russian cities across the country are set to be a “fan zone” areas for fans who wishes to witness football action in the postponed Euro 2020 next year, if the coronavirus remains uncontainable as the tournament commence.

Home to FC Zenit Saint Petersburg since April 2017, Saint Petersburg Stadium held seven fixtures at the 2018 World Cup.The stadium was built on the location where the former Kirov Stadium used to stand before it was demolished. Matches to be staged in this arena are: Belgium v Russia; Finland v Russia; Finland v Belgium; Quarter final: W41 v W42.

In March, UEFA announced that their largest European Championship men’s soccer tournament was called off and will resume after a year due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The EURO 2020 will now take place from June 11 to July11 in 2021. The venues for the said competition to be staged next year confirmed to be the same.