Croatia assistant coach booted for ‘Glory to Ukraine’ video

A member of Croatia’s World Cup squad has been sent packing by the Croatian Football Federation for a pro-Ukraine video he published and shared on social media.

Assistant coach and Dynamo Kiev scout Ognjen Vukojević and Croatia defender Domagoj Vida — both of whom are former Dynamo Kiev players — recorded and posted a video message on Saturday, shortly after Croatia beat Russia on penalties to reach a World Cup semi final for the first time since 1998.

In the video which was posted on Facebook by Ukrainian journalist Andrey Sharkov, Vida can be heard shouting, “Glory to Ukraine.”

In 2014, the Crimean peninsula was annexed by Russia from Ukraine. While a number of countries have come to recognise Crimea as part of the Russian Federation, Ukraine continues to claim the region as part of its territory. Since then, the phrase — widely used during the revolution which drove Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych from power — has since been adopted by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists.

Relations between the two countries remain tense.

The video has been met with condemnation in Russia, which continues to support the independence claims of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking minority. Shortly after Vida’s message, Vukojević then added “this win is for Dynamo and Ukraine […] go Croatia.”

In comparison to Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, Vida appears to have managed to escape severe punishment. Xhaka and Shaqiri were fined by Fifa after having been found to have engaged in “unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play during their goal(s) celebrations….” Had FIFA found Vida to have been in breach of its disciplinary statute, he would have faced a two-match ban.

The football governing body confirmed in a statement however, that it had issued a warning to the defender over his comments but he will instead be available for selection when Croatia face England on Wednesday.

READ MORE: England dreaming but Croatia set to provide biggest World Cup test

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Kiri Rupiah
Kiri Rupiah is the online editor at the Mail & Guardian.

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