Football revolution coming soon?

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Oct. 18, 2011, 5:17 p.m. | Op-ed — by Oksana Lyachynska

Fireworks are seen from the newly reconstructed Olympiyskiy Stadium during its opening ceremony in Kyiv on Oct. 8. Would the stadium be a good place for a peaceful revolution during the Euro 2012 football championship?

Oksana Lyachynska

Kyiv Post staff writer

At the same time that a judge in Kyiv announced his historical guilty verdict against Yulia Tymoshenko, more than 200 journalists from Eastern Europe and the Middle East were listening to a European commissioner speaking in Brussels. Stefan Fule, the European commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, replied optimistically when asked what he thought about the Oct. 11 guilty verdict and the seven year prison sentence against Ukraine’s ex-prime minister.

“The process is not over yet and will be followed very closely,” Fule said, noting the chances for appeal as well as the prospect of new laws that would decriminalize the charges for which Tymoshenko was convicted.

Few journalists listening were as hopeful.

Another criminal case opened against Tymoshenko on Oct. 13 confirmed the skepticism.

Fule was one of the speakers at the European Neighbourhood Journalism Network conference funded by the European Union. Inspired, probably, by recent Arabic revolutions, journalists from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and other Middle East countries were energetic discussing the future of media during the event.

Journalists from Eastern Europe were less enthusiastic in media discussions, probably, because they already know that revolutions are either rare or impossible, as in case of authoritarian Belarus or Russia, or fail, as happened in Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution.
“Why don’t you make your next revolution during Euro 2012?” Dutch journalist Tijn Sadee asked.

“We in Belarus were so inspired watching Rose Revolution in Georgia followed by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Now when we see how things ended up there, especially in Ukraine, we lose our heart,” said Yanina Melnikava, press officer at the Belarusian Association of Journalism.

After the 2010 presidential election won by Alexander Lukashenko for the fourth time in a row and ended up with scores of arrests, the people of Belarus became frightened and discouraged.

“For the first time in our organization, which has been existing for 15 years, we had to hire a psychologist because journalists were just afraid to do their job,” Melnikava said. “After Dec. 19, almost every citizen in Belarus needs a psychologist. There is fear in the society.”

At the moment in Belarus, there are 13 political prisoners, two of whom are former presidential candidates. As a response, Belarusian people organized a flurry of peaceful protests gathering on squares and applauding without crying any political slogans.

According to Ukrainian political experts, in Ukraine there are up to 40 political prisoners including former prime minister and 2010 presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko. However, Ukrainians seem to be indifferent and not ready for a large-scale protest to support the co-star of the Orange Revolution. Many feel she had her chance to change the country for the better, but failed and betrayed her political partner Viktor Yushchenko. Others think it was Yushchenko who undermined Tymoshenko and the revolution.

Meanwhile, it seems that the main Kyiv’s square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the scene of the Orange Revolution unveiled in 2004, has been gradually replaced by a stadium as a favored venue.

During an official opening of the newly built Olympic Stadium in Kyiv, where the final match of the Euro 2012 football championship will take place in 2012, Yanukovych was greeted boos mixed with tepid cheers.

Earlier this year, football fans were filmed during football matches shouting “Thank you to the people of Donbass, for the president-pederast.” Yanukovych, the former governor of Donetsk Oblast, hails from the gritty Donbass industrial region.

“Why don’t you make your next revolution during Euro 2012?” Tijn Sadee, correspondent at Radio Netherlands World Wide, half-jokingly and half-seriously asked Ukrainian journalists in Brussels.

“I always try to convince my editors that it is important to write what’s happening in such countries as Ukraine. But, you know, they say it is already an old story. It needs a new fresh angle,” he said.

A football revolution can open a new page in Ukrainian history, but only if people believe that one more revolution can change society for the better.

President Yanukovych was greeted boos with tepid cheersduring opening of Olympiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv on Oct. 8.

(Video by Mustafa Nayyem)

Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Faryna can be reached at
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