FIFA has opened an investigation into an incendiary video message recorded by Croatia’s Domagoj Vida and Ognjen Vukojevic, in which the pair presented Croatia’s victory over Russia as a win for Ukraine.
“FIFA is processing the different reports of the said match as well as potential evidence concerning the matter referred to. Please understand, until we have evaluated all information available, we cannot comment further,” said a statement from the organizers of the World Cup, reported by AFP and other media outlets.
In the video, posted online by Ukrainian journalist Andrey Shakhov, Vida, the scorer of Croatia’s extra-time goal, and a penalty in the shootout, shouts “Glory to Ukraine!”
The slogan has its roots in Ukraine’s nationalist and anti-Russian movement in the 20th century, and became the rallying cry for the Maidan revolution in 2014.
“This victory is for Dynamo (Kiev) and for Ukraine,” says Vukojevic, a recently-retired Croatian international who played in Kiev, and now works as a scout for the national team, in the video.
Coming in the slipstream of what was already a painful loss for the hosts, the video has sparked outrage in Russia, receiving widespread coverage in the media, and reopening fresh wounds between Moscow and Kiev over the status of Crimea.
Vida, who represented Dynamo Kiev from 2013 until this year, has tried to play down his comments as “just a joke,” saying that he “likes Russian people” and that there were “no politics involved.”
FIFA forbids the deployment of political slogans during football matches, and Vida could face a fine or even a suspension from the semi-final game against England for his comments. That would be an extreme sanction, however. Setting a precedent at this World Cup, Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri were fined $10,000 each for their pro-Kosovan celebrations during their team’s win over Serbia in the group stage.