Belarusian activists disappointed with football association ban | politics

“We have nothing against the Estonian authorities and the police who allowed us to walk around before the game and escort us from Freedom Square to Lilleküla Stadium. But we are dissatisfied with the football association and the management of the A. Le Coq Arena. “Vitali Moltšanov, board member of MTÜ Valgevene Maja, told ERR on Monday.

He said the activist group asked the football association about restrictions on the game and was told that they would not be allowed into the arena with white, red and white flags and banners opposed to the current leadership of Belarus. The Belarusians left their flags and banners before entering the arena, but they were also not allowed into the stands in white and red outfits, which the activists put on in their normal clothes.

“I’m not a lawyer, but that seems to be a restriction on freedom of expression,” added Moltšanov.

Football association spokesman Mihkel Uiboleht told ERR that international matches are being organized under the auspices of FIFA and UEFA, stating that symbols and actions with any political background or content are banned in arenas and that the focus should be on sport.

“It’s not about who politically supports whom, the question is that the established rules for football matches say so, including a rule that football doesn’t make political decisions for or against anyone,” said Uiboleht.

“Of course it makes no difference who is supported or not. Such a situation is common for fans and people in football and results from international rules that are monitored by a delegation assigned to the game, always from a neutral country. So it was on Friday, “said the spokesman.

Uiboleht said that the association had met with a representative of the Belarusian community two weeks before the match and had been informed of their obligations under UEFA and FIFA regulations.

“The meeting was very constructive and took place in an understanding atmosphere. These meetings are also common when planning football matches,” said Uiboleht.

Both UEFA and FIFA say political actions are prohibited. At the same time, the activists were consciously dressed accordingly, added the spokeswoman. “The question was that actions are not allowed, but wearing an outfit is an action,” emphasized Uiboleht.

Nobody was turned away from the game when they competed in red and white jackets or sweaters, he said, adding that there were many people in the arena wearing clothes in Belarusian colors.

Moltšanov said there was at least one white, red and white flag in the Estonian fan sector during Friday’s game, and there was also a banner in support of Andrei Zeltser, a Belarusian who was killed in a KGB raid on his home in September became.

He thanked the Estonian football fans, who also supported the Belarusian side, and called out Жыве Беларусь! (Long live Belarus!). Moltšanov noticed that apart from the official Belarusian flag, there was no red and green in sight. Estonia beat Belarus 2-0 in the game on Friday.

Uiboleht said it was difficult to gauge what the Estonian Football Association’s fine would have been if the activists were allowed into the arena in red and white colors, but fines usually start at 10,000 euros. He noted that political issues are usually “more expensive”.

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