After Croatia defeated Russia in the World Cup quarterfinal on penalty kicks this weekend, former Croatia international Ognjen Vukojevic posted a video of himself and Croatian defender Domagoj Vida celebrating in the locker room and exclaiming “Slava Ukrayini!”, which translates to “Glory to Ukraine!”
Vukojevic was sent home from Russia, and FIFA threatened to discipline Vida for his role in the video, though they ultimately decided to simply warn Vida. Vida has played every minute for Croatia at this World Cup besides their meaningless group-stage game against Iceland, and he scored an extra-time goal against Russia. He played for Dynamo Kiev for five seasons, and Vukojevic is now a scout for the club.
Because this World Cup is taking place in Russia, and because Croatia just beat the hosts, the anti-Russian sentiments of the video were obvious. “Slava Ukrayini!” is not only a Pro-Ukrainian phrase, it’s also become an explicitly anti-Russian rallying cry since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. The phrase has supposedly been adopted by far-right forces in Ukraine in recent years, so it’s unsurprising that FIFA would seek to get them to stop. FIFA has already wagged its finger at players for “expressing political sentiments” at this World Cup, though one wonders if FIFA would have cracked down had they expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.
Shortly after the dust settled, Vida appeared in another video with Croatia staffer and former player Ivica Olić, where he said “Slava Ukrayini!” as well as “Belgrade burn!”
However, Vida appears to be in a different room, and it’s not clear when the second video was filmed. The Guardian has reported that Vida may have been referring to a bar in Kiev called Cafe Belgrade being particularly rowdy, rather than expressing anti-Serbia sentiments. Either way, FIFA confirmed that it was looking into the new video, and if Vida is suspended, Croatia will be without half of their first-choice back line.