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FIFA Denies Ukrainian President Zelensky’s Request to Address World Cup Final

FIFA has resisted any forms of political speech during the tournament in Qatar

The international governing body of soccer has reportedly opted not to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak at its World Cup Final.

Zelensky had offered to address spectators at the final game between Argentina and France on Dec. 18. 

“We thought FIFA wanted to use its platform for the greater good,” a source told CNN. It has not been confirmed if the president would make an in-person appearance or appear via video.

The source said talks between Ukraine and FIFA organizers are still underway. It is possible the organizers will change their minds. 

Since the Ukraine-Russia war began in February, recorded addresses from Zelensky have been played before a number of high-profile events, including the Group of 20 Nations, the Grammys and the Cannes Film Festival.

In March, Zelensky told the United States Congress that Ukrainians have been “resisting the Russian aggression” for the last eight years. 

“Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities,” the actor-turned-politician said. “It went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values.”

He was voted Time Magazine’s 2022 most influential person by readers.

This ranking is made at a time when Europe is experiencing the worst war in 77 years—the war we cannot stop yet,” he said during his video address at the publication’s June gala in New York City. “It is time to be 100% influential. We can defeat tyranny. Indeed, everyone of us—everyone—is the leader of our time. We can reliably defend freedom. We can stop blackmail from a person who has no place on our list at all.”

Zelensky urged the United Nations Security Council that Russia should be given just punishment” for its invasion of Ukraine during a September speech.

Throughout the tournament, FIFA has attempted to deter any political expression. 

Seven European countries had initially planned to wear OneLove antidiscrimination armbands while playing to show support for the LGBTQ community but backed down in the face of sanctions from FIFA,” reported The Hill. “German players protested the decision in their opening match by covering their mouths for a team photo.”

Qatar, this year’s host country, strictly forbids sexual acts between people of the same sex and does not legally permit same-sex marriage. Anyone in a same-sex partnership is considered by law to be an unfit guardian. 

Additionally, “hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity are not considered an aggravating circumstance in sentencing” and “the government can prevent LGBT people from entering or deport LGBT people from Qatar on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to UK-based advocacy group Stonewall

Germany and England are both considering taking legal action against FIFA over the armband decision. 

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