Praise a Nazi: Ukraine President Zelensky's adulation of footballer Zozulya is backwards step in fight against fascism
It seems hostilities towards an ideology that shunted the world backwards by decades, adopted to ensure a repeat will never occur, have not only thawed but melted into warm, fuzzy greetings.
Zelensky hailed Ukraine international footballer Zozulya “a patriot” after Spanish fans showered the Albacete midfielder with chants of "You f*cking Nazi!” during a Segunda Division match away to Rayo Vallecano at the weekend, which forced its abandonment.Also on rt.com ‘You f*cking Nazi!’: Fan chants at Ukrainian footballer Zozulya cause match to be abandoned in Spain
After the unsavory event, Zelensky took to Facebook to voice his support of the 33-times Ukraine-capped Zozulya.
“Not only does your team support you, but the whole of Ukraine!” the message of support read. “You are not only a great footballer, you are a true patriot who loves his country and helps our military. We are with you! I shake your hand.”
With such warm words from Zelensky on his verified Facebook page to his 1 million plus followers in response one might wonder why Zozulya evoked such impassioned profanity from the Spanish fans.
That’s because Zozulya has done things that make him very much like a Nazi.
Zozulya is a figure reviled in football quarters, particularly in Spain, which suffered its own long brutal brush with fascism under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in the middle part of the last century.
Rayo Vallecano hail from the Vallekas commune of Madrid, where Franco’s reign began when the capital fell to Nazi-backed Francoist forces after a bloody two-and-a-half year siege.
Zozulya ha estado siempre cerca de todos los grupos ultras neonazis de los clubes en los que ha estado. Aquí apoyando a los Dnepr White Boys. pic.twitter.com/Ch8vpoaipE— AntonioMaestre (@AntonioMaestre) December 15, 2019
No hombre no, si Zozulya es un demócrata pic.twitter.com/qtiWIIpbK3— Alber (@Fraczkowski1) December 15, 2019
La afición del Bayern de Münich hizo lo mismo con Zozulya en apoyo a la afición del Rayo Vallecano en un partido de copa contra el Wolfsburgo. Pero claro, allí no pararon el partido. pic.twitter.com/iPQQ00P21c— AntonioMaestre (@AntonioMaestre) December 15, 2019
In 2017, when Zozulya arrived in that same city to join Rayo on loan from La Liga’s Real Betis, Rayo’s ultras naturally took issue to his alleged links to neo-Nazi groups.
Rayo fans confronted the player with a "Vallekas is not the place for Nazis" banner and Twitter storm was sparked, giving rise to #ZozulyaNotWelcome and #ZozulyaPutoNazi (Zozulya f*cking Nazi) hashtags.
La Liga has allowed racist chants, homophobic chants, chants making fun of dead players, and everything else.They allowed Villarreal fans to throw bananas at Dani Alves, but when Rayo fans call Roman Zozulya — a white supremacist — a Nazi, the game gets suspended.What a joke.— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) December 15, 2019
Zozulya’s posted provocative posts including photographs emphasizing his likeness to an image of Stepan Bandera, the leader of Ukrainian nationalist groups that cooperated with Nazi Germany during World War II. Rayo ultra group Plataforma ADRV issued a statement that Zozulya “donated money to fascist battalions” and “displayed far-right symbols”.
The result? Banished from Rayo but unable to return to Betis, Zozulya was left in limbo, but signed for Albacete the following summer with whom he returned to Rayo on Sunday.
Pictures have also surfaced of Zozulya allegedly pointing towards a scoreboards showing a 14-88 score.
It is believed this is a reference to the white supremacist slogan "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children", and the 8th letter of the alphabet, which stands for 'Heil Hitler'.
The two clubs on Sunday, together with La Liga, were unanimous in their support of the decision to call a halt to the game in light of the chants, which makes it all the more odd Zelensky would want to commend Zozulya.
The courts of football fan culture has never been ruled by the law of cancel culture, and rarely passes sentence without being convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the crime.
Rayo fans were judge, jury and executioner, and allegedly moved Zozulya to tears in the dressing room at halftime, after which his Albacete teammates refused to appear for the second 45.
It wasn’t a punch, but it was a huge blow to Zozulya. But the fist from Rayo that crashed down against a fascist narrative will be countered by Zelensky’s open palm, a proverbial slap in the face for anyone fighting to rid the sport of its ideology.
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