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Monday, 7 May 2012

Don’t cry for Yulia! The absurdity of the Euro 2012 boycott debate

Just one month before the UEFA European Football Championship In Poland and the Ukraine, the discussion on Yulia Timoshenko’s health condition is dominating sports. The European Commission already announced not to attend any of the matches being held in the Ukraine, the EU increases political pressure on the Ukrainian government of president Yanukovych, after the entire boycott discussion has been kicked off by Germany and Chancellor Merkel’s announcement to impose a “political boycott” against the UEFA Cup, resulting in the non-attendance of German politicians for the matches. Yanukovich, on the other hand, accuses the EU for turning a European sports event into a political stage in the middle of the economic and monetary crisis, threatening diplomatic and trade relations between the EU and the Ukraine.

The former president of the German Court of Justice stated in a recent article of the weekly news magazine “Focus” that a boycott – or even the discussion of a boycott – is counterproductive to Germany’s and the EU’s approach towards the Yanukovych administration, and that the case should be brought to the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. With a boycott, everyone related to the sports event per se will be punished for the misguided policy of its increasingly authoritarian president.

All these discussions, just because of a single woman?

True, Yulia Timoshenko was one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution of 2004, when the Ukraine was hoping for a political and social change against its former authoritarian leaders. The massive media success made Timoshenko a media pop star, and she knew how to use her popularity, especially in the west. She was the Ukraine’s best known marketing article.
However, the party was short, the hangover is massive. Since she was sentenced for seven years imprisonment by a Ukrainian court in late 2011, since she used her massive popularity in Ukrainian opposition groups and in the western world to impose political pressure against Yanukovych. The approaching UEFA Euro-Cup is an ideal instrument for her to exploit herself and to make football a political affair.

Will the EU, will Germany, and other countries consider an overall “political” boycott just because of an egomaniac woman? Timoshenko is using the pre-Euro-Cup euphoria to turn a sports event into diplomatic quarrel. It would not be the first time for a sports event to be over-shadowed by politics, it already happened with the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games. But now it is all kicked off by a single person who uses her popularity in the west to push European leaders into an odd and not comprehensible behaviour. To boycott a sports event just because a single person is being mistreated in prison does not comply with the non-boycott of other events in countries and places where human rights violations take place on a much bigger scale.

Ask yourselves: where is the consistency? Did the EU suddenly change its mind just because of the individual fate of a woman driven by her own narcissism?

Yulia Timoshenko knows how to create publicity, and she’s using her talent very well. The Euro-Cup has lost its mere sports character and has been turned into a political affair, the losers are already clear: it’s the Ukrainian public who wanted to redeem themselves as good hosts. A boycott because of Timoshenko’s imprisonment conditions is just as wrong as a non-boycott because of prevailing trade interests (i.e. the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, or the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan).

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