KRASNOGVARDEISKOYE, Crimea (AP) — 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.