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Ukraine 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 Sunday. 

The video, which was recorded in English, was meant to be an “appeal for peace,” according to a written statement provided to CNN by Ukraine’s presidential office 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. 

CNN has reached out to FIFA but has not received a comment. Qatar has not publicly commented on the request from Ukraine.

CNN first reported on the story when a source within Zelensky’s office said the request to deliver the video message had been rebuffed.  

CNN received a video copy of President Zelensky’s pre-recorded speech on Saturday.

During the 1 minute, 43 second video, 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,” Zelensky says in the address. 

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 statement said. 

The Ukrainian presidential office added 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.

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


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