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Georgian footballers also want Georgia to join the European Union

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Georgian footballers also want Georgia to join the European Union

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These days in Georgia many people are protesting against the proposed law on so-called “foreign agents”. The proposal stipulates that media and NGOs that receive at least 20 percent of their funding from abroad must register as entities that “pursue the interests of a foreign power.” Protesters have compared the law to one Russia has used for years to repress dissent and fear that, if approved, it could jeopardize Georgia’s chances of joining the European Union. Last December it obtained the status of a candidate country to join, but to continue on this path it will have to demonstrate that it guarantees the correct functioning of democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law.

Also on Wednesday were several players from the Georgian national football team they came together to the protests, posting messages on their social network profiles against the bill and in favor of Georgia’s entry into the European Union. Napoli’s Georgian footballer Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, one of the best in the Italian Serie A, shared a photo of the Georgian and European flags on Facebook, writing: «The European path unites us, forward in Europe and peace to Georgia!». Valencia’s Georgian goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili and national team captain Jaba Kankava also shared similar content. Kankava also wrote in an Instagram story: “Fuck Russia!”.

The initiative is notable because it was apparently coordinated (many footballers posted content at the same time) and because it is not very common for footballers to take such explicit political positions.

When they are identified as “foreign agents”, the media, organizations, politicians and journalists can receive more invasive controls and limitations on funding: in Russia the law similar to the one proposed in Georgia has made it possible to limit the activity of associations for civil rights, independent media, political opponents and more. Last year the Georgian government had already tried to introduce such a law, but it was not passed having been contested with large popular protests.

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The Georgia national football team is in a moment of great visibility, perhaps the greatest in its history, because last March it qualified for the first time for the European Football Championships, which will be played in Germany between June and July.

Georgia borders Turkey and Russia, overlooks the Black Sea and is geographically in Asia, but being close to Europe it plays competitions with the European federation, UEFA (this happens for many other countries in that area). This is also why in recent times the national team’s players and their qualification have somehow assumed a symbolic importance in the country’s debate on entry into the European Union.

Georgia’s victory in the decisive penalty shoot-out against Greece created huge excitement across the country. Now that footballers have also taken a clearly pro-European position, many hope that their influence can help the protests to be more incisive, attracting the attention of local and international politicians. David Kezerashvili, who was Georgian defense minister at the time of the 2008 Russian invasion, said their support “could prove to be a decisive intervention, just weeks after millions of people took to the streets to celebrate qualifying for Euro 2024 ».

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