With the European Championship coming up, I think one should expect controversies. They are an inevitable feature of almost every big competition. This year it looks like one of the popular topics is the political situation in Ukraine. People have been talking about boycotting the championship. According to some articles, Jogi Löw and Philipp Lahm had to take a stand. I am not going to lie: I was against that. Yet, it certainly looks like Lahm did exactly that. This is arguably the first time when I do not agree with him at all.
Spiegel published the following article:
The captain takes a stand: in his interview with Spiegel, Lahm is the first national player who has expressed his point of view on the human rights issue in the host country, Ukraine, and has criticized the government’s way of handling Yulia Timoshenko’s case.
Philipp Lahm, the captain of the German National Team, has criticized Ukraine’s government for their way of dealing with the imprisoned leader of the opposition, Yulia Timoshenko. In the interview with Spiegel, Lahm says, “I do not find my views on the basic democratic rights, human rights, on issues such as individual freedom and freedom of speech, in agreement with the current political situation in Ukraine. When I see how the government treats Yulia Timoshenko, it has nothing in common with my idea of democracy.
The 28-year-old fullback from Munich expects the UEFA and its president, Michel Platini, to convey a clear message on the issue of human rights in Ukraine, “I think he should take a stand. I am eager to hear what he has to say.” As to the fact that the internal political situation in Ukraine threatens to overshadow the European Championship, Lahm believes that to be unavoidable, “The football has become too big to remain unaffected by it. As I was reading the first reports of Timoshenko’s poor health, I anticipated the direction in which it was going.”
Whether Lahm, in case of the victory ceremony in the final, will shake the Ukrainian President’s [Viktor Yanukovich] hand, the captain of the German team leaves it open, “I would have to seriously ponder on that. As far as I know, the victory ceremony in Kiev will be conducted by the UEFA officials only.”
translation © unavis
We often speak of distinguishing between politics and sports. We wish to separate them although they strive to intertwine, and I believe that is the right thing to do. But can we resist the vast arena that, in this case, the world of football offers to those who wish to express their point of view? I did not want Philipp to speak on the issue. I understand that he had to, but I did not want him to. Why? Simply because I highly doubt that he follows closely what has been going on in Ukraine since several years ago. He says he has read things. When? Today? Two years ago? How much does he know? Does he know what the Ukrainians think about it? Questions, questions… However, it is his right to speak up, and I respect him for that. I wish he did not, but I understand why he did. Also, it it evident that he understands how manipulative the whole situation is, and he is well aware of the power of football, i.e. the springboard-like quality of it for any matter out there. Perhaps this is why I am not so fond of anyone from the German team, for that matter, to mingle in it.
The bottom line is that politics should not have anything to do with people who would like to see their favorite teams play. They have been waiting for it. If for some reason Ukraine does not get to see the championship, it will affect common people, admirers of football, first of all. Frankly, I do not think it is fair.
A side note: I do, however, see some of Lahm’s usual traits in this. His sharp mind and his active involvement as a member of society, his sense of responsibility, and his conviction to speak his mind.
I restrain from discussing politics in this blog because that is not its purpose. However, in light of the current debate, I am going to post this paragraph because it summarizes my point of view.
Also, the former president of the Federal Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, spoke up against the political boycott of the co-host country. A visit to a match at the European Championship in Ukraine should be “an honor to all players and not the political leadership of the country,” said Papier in the interview with Welt […], “the European Championship is not a governmental meeting. Everything else would be a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of such sport events.”
The key word is political.