Player claims he was just being patriotic, but gesture regarded as provocative by Turkish hosts.
Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Dmitri Tarasov has done his bit for Turkey-Russian relations by unveiling a pro-Vladimir Putin T-shirt at the end of his side’s Europa League defeat to Istanbul club Fenerbahce.
Tarasov’s T-shirt depicted Putin in a navy cap with the words “most polite president” printed below.
Relations between the two countries been tense since November when Turkey shot down a Russian jet that it claimed had violated its airspace. Russia responded with economic sanctions, and now the countries are locked in a proxy war in Syria as Turkey backs rebels while Moscow supports president Bashar al-Assad.
The phrase on Tarasov’s T-shirt is believed to be a reference to the unmarked troops who occupied Crimea in March 2014 and were known as “polite people” and “little green men”, before Putin admitted they had been Russian soldiers.
“I didn’t want any provocations, I’m just a patriot of my country, and Putin is the president of our country,” Tarasov later told the LifeNews, adding that he might wear a Putin shirt “with a different caption” at his next match.
But European football’s governing body, Uefa, which forbids political statements during matches, is expected to take disciplinary action against Lokomotiv.
The match was in the Europa League’s round of 32. Fenerbahçe will play Lokomotiv again in what promises to be a highly charged second leg encounter in Moscow on 25 February.