Jokerit fans threaten home game boycott if team goes to Belarus

Supporters group says they're showing solidarity with fans in Minsk who are also boycotting games and calling for free and fair elections.

File picture of Jokerit fans / Credit: Eteläpääty Ry

The official Jokerit ice hockey supporters club says it will boycott home games in Finland if the team goes ahead with Thursday’s match against Dinamo Minsk in Belarus.

In a statement Eteläpääty Ry says they’ve discussed the situation and come to a “unanimous decision to boycott Jokerit home matches for the time being” if the Minsk game goes ahead.

They’re recommending a boycott not just from Eteläpääty members, but also from the wider Jokerit fan base.

“We want to also show our support to the fans of Minsk who are also boycotting their team before they condemn the violence and demand new elections” Eteläpääty’s Roope Räty explains.

“We have always been in good relations with [the club] and talked with them […] we have talked with Jokerit” Räty tells News Now Finland.

Jokerit is due to fly to Minsk on Thursday, play against Dinamo in the evening, then fly back to Helsinki the same night.

Critics have said the trip is no longer about ice hockey, but about human rights.

“We’ve all seen, we’ve all read what is happening in Belarus. People are getting tortured, raped, murdered, people are fleeing the country. And here’s a Finnish hockey team going there as if nothing’s happening. Which in a sense is support for [Belarus President] Lukashenko” says Filip Saxén, Sports Editor at Hufvudstadsbladet.

A Jokerit spokesperson said earlier that of course they were aware of the situation in Minsk but that players hadn’t expressed any particular concerns to managers about the optics of going ahead with the match.

The fixture, which is the opening match in the KHL season, comes after weeks of protests over rigged presidential elections in Belarus, a crackdown by regime authorities against pro-democracy protesters, and horrific accounts of torture and abuse meted out by police.

The KHL has been closely linked with Russian President Vladimir Putin and some of his associates as their sporting ‘passion project’ which helps project Russian soft power through Russia, former Soviet states, China, the Baltics and Finland.

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