Croatian defender Domagoj Vida is at risk of being banned from playing in the World Cup semifinal on Wednesday after the release of two short video clips where Vida is heard saying pro-Ukraine comments.
In the first video clip, Vida is seen with former Croatian national team player Ognjen Vukojevic, who is currently working as a scout for the Ukrainian soocer club Dynamo Kiev. Vida says "Glory to Ukraine" after which Vukojevic is heard saying "this win is for Dynamo and Ukraine [...] go Croatia."
The tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been high since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. The phrase "Glory to Ukraine" has frequently been used as a slogan by Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalists, who strongly oppose the Russian annexation.
The two have since apologized for the video but Croatia's Soccer Delegation (HNS) decided to dismiss Vukojevic from his duties and send him home from the World Cup, according to Newsweek.
Vida, however, received a warning for the clip.
In the second clip, Vida is heard again shouting "Glory to Ukraine" and a few seconds later he adds, "Belgrade is burning."
According to FIFA's disciplinary code, any use of political slogans is strictly prohibited.
Vida apologized after both videos went viral, saying that it was only a joke. He has been a key player for Croatia, playing all games and scoring the 2-1 goal against Russia. A ban on him would be a major setback for the Croatian team.
Following FIFA's reaction to the statements, the FIFA Facebook page has been flooded by tens of thousands of supporters of Ukraine in an online flash mob, according to the Ukrainian broadcasting company UA TV. Supporters have repeated the phrase "Glory to Ukraine" and showed support for both Vida and the Ukraine.
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