Exclusive: Portugal’s Salvador Sobral says his “SOS refugees” sweatshirt is not political

He’s a Eurovision 2017 favourite who has raised awareness about the plight of asylum seekers by wearing an SOS Refugees sweatshirt in Kyiv.

And while the overwhelming majority of fans have applauded him for taking a stand, the European Broadcasting Union asked Portugal’s Salvador Sobral to stop wearing the statement jumper on Friday because, in their mind, it carries a political message.

Ms Carla Bugalho, the Portuguese Head of Delegation, confirmed to wiwibloggs on Saturday that the request has been made by the EBU. However, she denied other reports circulating on Eurovision fan sites that the EBU had formally banned the Portuguese entrant from wearing the top.

Although it is not an outright ban, Salvador remains disappointed by the EBU’s request.

Speaking exclusively to wiwibloggs, the Portuguese singer said: “This is not a political message — it is a humanitarian and essentially human message.”

He is not making any further comment at this stage and has agreed to abide by the EBU’s decision, in order to focus on the rehearsals ahead of tonight’s Grand Final.

Salvador used the semi-final 1 qualifiers’ press conference to explain the message behind his top.

“When I thought of coming here I immediately thought of the refugees because they are fleeing from death,” he said. “Make no mistake. These people are not immigrants — they are refugees, running away from death.”

“I can’t say that Europe isn’t making an effort. Everybody’s making an effort. But I feel like there is…so much bureaucratic stuff happening in the refugee camps in Greece, in Turkey, in Italy. We can diminish these bureaucratic services. They ask for birth certificates for people who just came in plastic boats…that’s just insane.”

Salvador’s speech was very well received by the media in Kyiv and beyond, making headlines around the globe.

The EBU considers the “SOS Refugees” message and Sobral’s support of the refugee cause a bit risky. As per the European Broadcasting Union’s rulebook, political messages are forbidden in the contest and the EBU does not want to be accused of breaking their own rules by allowing a contestant to use their platform to promote a message that is not related to music or that could be misconstrued as political discourse.

No messages promoting any organization, institution, political cause or other, company, brand, products or services shall be allowed in the Shows and within any official ESC premises (i.e. at the venue, during the Opening Ceremony, the Eurovision village, the Press Centre, etc.). A breach of this rule may result in disqualification.