World

Crimea soccer fans deeply loyal to their teams despite tensions between Ukraine, Russia

  • In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct.  25, 2014, soccer fans of the team of "Druzhba" (Friendship) from Petrovka village support their team during a match at "Yunost" (Youth) stadium in Krasnogvardeiskoye, about 68 km., 42 miles north of Simferopol, Crimea. Crimea’s soccer fans, especially the tough and boisterous young men who frequent games, are as devoted as ever, even as political tensions cloud the region’s teams.  In the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, the European soccer federation UEFA in December banned Crimean soccer clubs from playing in Russian leagues.  Ukraine says Russia effectively stole three teams. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, soccer fans of the team of "Druzhba" (Friendship) from Petrovka village support their team during a match at "Yunost" (Youth) stadium in Krasnogvardeiskoye, about 68 km., 42 miles north of Simferopol, Crimea. Crimea’s soccer fans, especially the tough and boisterous young men who frequent games, are as devoted as ever, even as political tensions cloud the region’s teams. In the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, the European soccer federation UEFA in December banned Crimean soccer clubs from playing in Russian leagues. Ukraine says Russia effectively stole three teams. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct.  25, 2014, soccer fans of the team of "Druzhba" (Friendship) from Petrovka village support their team during a match at "Yunost" (Youth) stadium in Krasnogvardeiskoye, about 68 km. , 42 miles north of Simferopol, Crimea. Crimea’s soccer fans, especially the tough and boisterous young men who frequent games, are as devoted as ever, even as political tensions cloud the region’s teams.  In the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, the European soccer federation UEFA in December banned Crimean soccer clubs from playing in Russian leagues.  Ukraine says Russia effectively stole three teams. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, soccer fans of the team of "Druzhba" (Friendship) from Petrovka village support their team during a match at "Yunost" (Youth) stadium in Krasnogvardeiskoye, about 68 km. , 42 miles north of Simferopol, Crimea. Crimea’s soccer fans, especially the tough and boisterous young men who frequent games, are as devoted as ever, even as political tensions cloud the region’s teams. In the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, the European soccer federation UEFA in December banned Crimean soccer clubs from playing in Russian leagues. Ukraine says Russia effectively stole three teams. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct.  25, 2014, a soccer fan of the team of "Druzhba" (Friendship) from Petrovka village has his hair cut another fan inside their underground club near the stadium "Yunost" (Youth) stadium in Krasnogvardeiskoye, about 68 km. , 42 miles north of Simferopol, Crimea. Crimea’s soccer fans, especially the tough and boisterous young men who frequent games, are as devoted as ever, even as political tensions cloud the region’s teams.  In the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, the European soccer federation UEFA in December banned Crimean soccer clubs from playing in Russian leagues.  Ukraine says Russia effectively stole three teams. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, a soccer fan of the team of "Druzhba" (Friendship) from Petrovka village has his hair cut another fan inside their underground club near the stadium "Yunost" (Youth) stadium in Krasnogvardeiskoye, about 68 km. , 42 miles north of Simferopol, Crimea. Crimea’s soccer fans, especially the tough and boisterous young men who frequent games, are as devoted as ever, even as political tensions cloud the region’s teams. In the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, the European soccer federation UEFA in December banned Crimean soccer clubs from playing in Russian leagues. Ukraine says Russia effectively stole three teams. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)  (The Associated Press)

Crimea's soccer fans, especially the tough and boisterous young men who frequent the games, are as devoted as ever, even as political tensions cloud the region's teams. 

In the wake of Russia's 2014 annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, the European soccer federation UEFA in December banned Crimean soccer clubs from playing in Russian soccer leagues. 

Ukraine says Russia effectively stole three professional clubs, including a former Ukrainian champion. The teams are not currently major powers, so the decision has little effect on how league competitions turn out in either nation. The Crimean clubs are now in limbo, unable to compete in either country.

And for even smaller teams such as Druzhba, whose fans are shown in these photos, the decision may be only a sideshow to the visceral loyalty that they hold for their home-field heroes.