Lokomotiv midfielder Dmitry Tarasov said he revealed a T-shirt praising Vladimir Putin after a match with Turkey’s Fenerbahce as a gesture of support for the Russian president but did not intend to upset anyone, local media reported Wednesday.
“He’s my president, I respect him and decided to show that I’m with him everywhere,” the R-Sport agency quoted Tarasov as saying.
After Tuesday’s Europa League match between Turkish giants Fenerbahce and Moscow’s railway-backed side in Istanbul, which the hosts won 2-0, Tarasov stripped off his Lokomotiv shirt to reveal a picture of Putin in military gear with the slogan “the most polite president”.
The words were a reference to the euphemism used in Russia for the Russian soldiers who carried out the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, who are known as “polite people”.
Russian media reported that Tarasov may receive a long-term ban for violation of UEFA regulations, which prohibit any kind of political, ideological or religious propaganda at football matches.
The player, who will have to miss the return encounter with Fenerbahce in Moscow after being cautioned in the match at Istanbul, defiantly vowed to wear another T-shirt with Putin’s image for his next appearance on the football pitch.
“I didn’t mean to abuse anybody or provoke,” Tarasov said in an interview with the Lifenews TV channel.
“There’s nothing so terrible about what I did and people with sense, I believe, understand this clearly.
“Probably after the next match you will see me wearing another t-shirt with Putin’s image and a different slogan.”
He added that he has not expected such a strong reaction to the T-shirt. “I wore this T-shirt in the past but nobody paid any attention to it,” Tarasov said.
The incident sparked anger in the Turkish press, as the government engages in an escalating war of words with Russia over the war in Syria, where the two countries back opposing sides.
“A Putin provocation from a Russian footballer,” fumed the pro-government Yeni Safak daily Wednesday.
There were no reports of any serious trouble between home and visiting fans but the bus carrying Lokomotiv supporters to the stadium was reportedly attacked by Fenerbahce fans, who threw stones at their Russian counterparts.
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