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Exclusive: Ukraine’s presidential office criticizes FIFA for refusing to show Zelensky’s message of peace at World Cup Final

<i>Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference on June 16
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference on June 16

By Matthew Chance, CNN

Ukraine’s presidential office is criticizing FIFA for refusing to show a video message from President Volodymyr Zelensky in Qatar’s Lusail Stadium ahead of the World Cup final on Sunday.

The video, which was recorded in English, is meant to be an “appeal 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 video address of the president to be shown before the final game,” the statement said.

Ukraine’s presidential office also said it will distribute the video independently if FIFA doesn’t air it and said their decision to block it would show “FIFA has lost its valuable understanding of soccer — as a game that unites peoples, rather than supporting existing divisions.”

CNN reached out to FIFA but has not received a comment. The world football governing body has gone to extreme 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 the request from Ukraine.

CNN first reported on the story on Friday, when a source within Zelensky’s office said the request to deliver the message of world peace prior to kickoff had been rebuffed.

On Saturday, CNN received a video copy of Zelensky’s pre-recorded speech.

In the clip, Zelensky says soccer is meant to bring the world together and calls for “the World Cup, but not world war.”

“This World Cup proved time again that different countries and nationalities can decide who is the strongest in the fair play but not in the playing with fire, on the green playing field and not on the red battlefield,” Ukraine’s president says in the video.

The Ukrainian presidential office told CNN they were informed that FIFA regarded the message as too political and said they had sent a copy of the text of the address to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland on Friday.

“There is nothing political in the president’s appeal that gives political color to the sporting event, namely, there are no subjective evaluations, political signals, and even more so no accusations,” the presidential office said, adding that there is “still time for FIFA to correct their error.”

“FIFA should not be afraid that words of peace will be heard at the global soccer celebration that represents peace,” the statement said.

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