Ukraine’s presidential office is criticizing FIFA for refusing to show a video message from President Volodymyr Zelensky at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final.
The video, which was recorded in English, is meant to be a “call for peace,” Ukraine’s presidential office said in a written statement to CNN on Saturday.
“Qatar supported the President’s initiative, but FIFA blocked the initiative and will not allow the President’s video address to be broadcast before the final match,” the statement said.
Ukraine’s presidential office also said it would distribute the video independently if FIFA did not release it and said its decision to block it would show that “FIFA has lost its valuable understanding of football – as a game that unites peoples, rather than supporting existing divisions.”
CNN contacted FIFA but did not receive a comment. World football’s governing body has gone to great lengths to keep political messaging out of its showcase tournament in Qatar, the first Middle Eastern nation to ever stage the event.
Qatar has not publicly commented on Ukraine’s request.
CNN first reported the story on Friday, when a source in Zelensky’s office said the request to deliver the world peace message before kickoff was denied.
On Saturday, CNN received a video copy of Zelensky’s pre-recorded speech.
In the clip, Zelensky says football is supposed to bring the world together and calls for “the World Cup, but not world war”.
“This World Cup has proven once again that different countries and nationalities can decide who is stronger in fair play but not in the game with fire, on the green playing field and not on the battlefield. red,” the Ukrainian president says in the video.
Ukraine’s presidential office told CNN it was told FIFA considered the message too political and said it sent a copy of the text of the speech to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland on Friday.
“There is nothing political in the call of the president which gives a political color to the sporting event, namely that there are no subjective evaluations, political signals, and even less charges,” the presidential office said, adding that there was “still time for FIFA to correct its mistake.
“FIFA should not be afraid that words of peace will be heard in the global celebration of football which represents peace,” the statement read.