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Explaining the Outrage Over Man City Blurring Gazprom Logo from Red Star Belgrade Kits

Explaining the Outrage Over Man City Blurring Gazprom Logo from Red Star Belgrade Kits

Gazprom is the largest state-owned multinational energy company in Russia and before Russia attacked Ukraine, the company with over $120 billion in sales revenue was listed amongst the most significant companies in operation in our modern corporate world.

Football fans will be much accustomed to Gazprom, with the multiple football teams they have sponsored over the years.

Gazprom, the company’s headquarters is located in St. Petersburg, so it was only natural they would be the official sponsor of the city’s primary football club, Zenit St. Petersburg.

They have also sponsored besides, Zenit, some heavyweight names in Europe, like Schalke and Red Star Belgrade, and even Paris Saint Germain.

The historical and political context:

To understand Gazprom’s influence over football teams as not only being limited as the mere sponsor, but a bit of political history is also required to set the context. Russia’s relationship with Eastern European countries is of varied complexity.

Part of former USSR, populations based largely on demographics in Eastern Europe often have divided sentiments when it comes to their relationship with Russia.

Some have enjoyed freedom and sovereignty whilst others feel separate from their history and imagine themselves as part of the former USSR and present Russia.

The fall of the USSR at the time led to a race for the gold, there was oil, years of communism had dwindled, and capitalism had turned the late nineties Russia into a rag to riches for anyone looking to enter themselves into the lottery taking place at the time.

The Gazprom Company came, as a part of that modern Russia, with the history and failure and sadness for the fall of communism, and the rise in modern dictatorship and capitalism that the country was going to be enthralled with in the coming years.

It is inherently tied to the fabric of modern Russia and the economy of the country. Gazprom, thus, was not merely a sponsor, but the company was the chief supplier of gas to almost all of Europe, with countries like Germany being its biggest buyers.

This was all pre-war in Ukraine when buying gas from Russia for the rest of the world didn’t automatically mean a crisis of morality. The start of the war had led to a fast-paced approach of Germany breaking their post-World War pact and supplying weapons to a country again.

They also swiftly made efforts to cut all ties with Russia, including buying gas from Gazprom. Boris Johnson and American President Biden met with Saudi official ministers of the country at the time, it was seen as a move to explore desperate alternatives to buying gas from Russia.

Gazprom became more and more, a company that needed to go. The countries of G7, comprising the most developed nations in the world are trying to make deals with Saudi, as the long-term replacement of Russia.

When Putin decided to attack Ukraine, it was for Zelensky, the Ukrainian president a matter of unprovoked attack on his country, for Putin and many in Eastern Europe, the attack was an act of bringing together lost territories of lost USSR.

Countries like Belarus or Serbia has a heavy dependency on Russia and the sentiments of their history. They are in support of what is happening in Ukraine. To them, it was after all what Putin always wanted.

What is happening now?

Manchester City drew against Red Star Belgrade, a Serbian side, sponsored still, by Red Star Belgrade. While the likes of Schalke, another team once primarily sponsored by the company decided to part ways. Belgrade has continued with it as it is.

Gazprom is still their most visible sponsor in their team jersey. As Germany as a country was trying to hold steadfast the ethos of the European Union at the time the war began, Schalke parting ways, was the obvious decision by the club.

In Serbia with sentiments of the war being different, there were no such issues instead perhaps it was a way to help Putin in whatever way possible in his pursuit of the heavy economic impositions announced by Biden to break the back of the Russian economy.

Manchester City had Zinchenko, the Ukranian starlet player, for a long time in their ranks. He was even a part of the squad when the war had commenced. Everton at the time, decided, not to play their traditional war sound, before, the start of the game, concerning what was in Ukraine and solidarity with Zinchenko.

So, when, in an official post, after being placed in the same group with Red Star Belgrade, Manchester City’s official page, decided to share a picture of the two clubs with the official sponsor of Red Star Belgrade, Gazprom, removed, from their jersey.

It was seen by Belgrade’s Siberian fans, as another evidence of world footballs, and English and Manchester City’s, stance against Russia. Manchester City had removed all of the sponsor’s names in the case of the other teams as well, in the series of the same posts, in all fairness, but the move didn’t go well at all for fans of Red Star Belgrade.

To them, it was a clear agenda of Manchester City’s anti-Russian ideologies. Guardiola’s teams are heavily linked with the economy of the Arab world. They have always been, since, the new owners brought the club, and their fortunes changed. Saudi Arabia, themselves, doesn’t have the best of records in the war in Yemen.

Belgrade fans took to Twitter, to highlight the hypocrisy of the move by Manchester City, to remove Gazprom, in the post, when their owners have a long-twisted history of as one user puts it blood money.

Sentiments in countries supporting Russia are often anti-western, with many viewing the pouring of sympathies for Ukraine while striking a deal with Saudi Arabia, who are themselves involved in a bloody battle in the Yemen civil war, a case of sadness for the white blood.

Manchester City’s latest act, following their Champions League draw, was seen as its continuation of the hypocrisy.