European football’s governing body is set to penalise a Lokomotiv Moscow football player after he revealed a t-shirt depicting Vladimir Putin during a match in Turkey.
Dmitri Tarasov caused considerable anger in Turkey after revealing the t-shirt, which shows a picture of the Russian President in a navy cap and reads “most polite president”, after his side lost 2-0 to Turkish side Fenerbahçe.
Relations between the two countries are severely strained after Turkey downed a Russian jet in November after claiming it had violated Turkish airspace while on a bombing raid in Syria. Russia responded by imposing sanctions and the two countries now support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.
The Guardian says the words on the shirt are a reference to unmarked troops who occupied Crimea during unrest in Ukraine. They were nicknamed the “polite people” before Putin admitted they were Russian soldiers.
Police had already detained three people before the match after stones and bottles were thrown at the bus carrying the Lokomotiv team, and several Turkish media outlets described the shirt as a “provocation”.
Mr Tarasov defended the shirt, however, saying: “I didn’t want any provocations, I’m just a patriot of my country, and Putin is the president of our country.”
“It’s my president. I respect him and decided to show that I’m always with him and prepared to give my support,” he added. “What was written on that shirt was everything that I wanted to say.”
He also said that he may wear another Putin shirt with a “different caption” when he plays his next match.
However, European football’s governing body, Uefa, forbids political statements during matches and will likely take disciplinary action against the team and Mr Tarasov, including disqualifying him for up to 10 matches.
Uefa has rejected calls to separate Russian and Turkish clubs during European competitions and will not separate the two nations in the draw for this summer’s European Championship.