Konstantin Vassiljev gives up national football team captain’s armband

Veteran Estonian midfielder Konstantin Vassiljev (FC Flora) is stepping down as captain of the men’s national football team following remarks made about the war in Ukraine, and Russia’s invasion of that country.

Vassiljev, 39. met with the Estonian Football Association’s (EJK) board on Tuesday, informing them that he would no longer wear the captain’s armband.

The EJK said: “The association recaps a clear and unanimous position: We stand for Estonia, in support of Ukraine, and oppose Russia’s aggression.”

“Support for Ukraine inherently means that we are opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine, and we have condemned it and continue to condemn it. It is our earnest hope that the war ends with Ukraine regaining control over all its territory, and as quickly as possible,” the EJK added in its statement.

“Konstantin Vassiljev explained to us that he is inherently a pacifist and in every sense loyal to Estonia. In comprehending the current realities, he opted to step down as captain of the Estonian men’s national team. The board respects Vassiljev’s decision, and has no doubts about his loyalty,” the EJK went on.

Vassiljev was attending a UEFA professional coaching course in Switzerland at the time, and so joined the meeting via internet link-up.

The news follows an appearance he made on evening paper Õhtuleht’s “Kolmas poolaeg” podcast, where controversy at the start of last year over photos showing members of the national team socializing with Russian manager Valeri Karpin was discussed, as was Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

On being asked whether he supports Ukraine in the current war he answered: “If they win, then maybe peace will come. If Russia wins, then maybe peace will come. If both sides decide to talk and make peace, then maybe peace will arrive.”

He also conceded that: “What people want to hear does not necessarily relate to what I think and feel. It doesn’t mean I’m in favor of one side or the other.”

Vassiljev made his senior team international debut in 2006.

A replacement captain has yet to be named.

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