Croatia's Vida apologises for Ukraine comments

Paola Ditto
Luglio 12, 2018

But the team had been widely admired by neutrals at the World Cup, before political tensions were once again brought to the fore by center back Domagoj Vida and since-sacked scout Ognjen Vukojevic, who recorded a video congratulating Ukraine over their own team's victory over Russian Federation in the quarter-finals.

Spectators at Wednesday's match in Moscow booed and whistled the Croatia centre back, after a video posted online earlier in the week showed Vida, a former player with Ukrainian club side Dynamo Kiev, saying "Glory to Ukraine!".

"I'm sorry. That's life".

Russia's relations with Ukraine have been fraught since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and backed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

World football's governing body FIFA ruled that Vida's comments were not in keeping with tournament rules about political neutrality.

The booing and whistles rang out each time Vida touched the ball in the semifinal against England, starting about 30 minutes into the first half.

Ognjen Vukojevic, a coaching assistant and former Croatia global, posted a video on social media in which he and defender Domagoj Vida dedicated the win to Ukraine.

The Croatian national team has a history of association with far-right nationalist movements, as it became a symbol of the country's independence following the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Vida said his comments in the video were not meant to convey any political message. "I sincerely hope that this message will not be understood as anything else but an expression of gratitude to our friends in Ukraine for their support", Vida said.

The organizers of the World Cup have admitted Croatian supporters were warned over an incendiary banner, brought in by the supporters to the team's opening game on June 16.

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