Croatia defender Domagoj Vida
Getty Images

FIFA has confirmed it is investigating Croatia defender Domagoj Vida’s pro-Ukraine comments after Saturday’s World Cup quarterfinal victory over hosts Russia.

Besiktas centre-back Vida, 29, and his former Dynamo Kiev and international teammate Ognjen Vukojevic recorded a video message following the victory in Sochi.

In the video, posted on Facebook by Ukrainian journalist Andrey Shakhov, Vida said: “Glory to Ukraine.” The phrase has become a slogan for Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalists following the latter’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Vukojevic, who now works as a scout at Dynamo but is with his national team for their World Cup campaign, added: “This victory is for Dinamo and Ukraine.”

The video went viral in Russia, prompting a hostile reaction. Later on Saturday night, anti-Croatian chants were heard in the centre of Moscow.

FIFA, the World Cup organisers and world football’s governing body, said in a statement to ESPN FC: “FIFA is processing the different reports of the said match as well as potential evidence concerning the matter referred to. Until we have evaluated all information available, we cannot comment further.”

Article 3 of FIFA’s disciplinary code, regarding improper conduct, prohibits “political slogans in any form” while article 54 states: “Anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches and sanctioned with a minimum fine of CHF 5,000 [$5,050].”

Vida, who scored in the match against Russia — which ended 2-2 after extra time — and netted in the resulting penalty shootout, later said of his comment in quotes reported by Russian outlet Championat: “I respect the Russian nation. This was just a joke for my Ukrainian friends. Football is outside politics. I didn’t mean anything bad.”

Vida played for Dinamo Kiev from 2013 to 2018 before moving to Besiktas in January. Vukojevic retired in 2017 having spent seven years of his playing career in the Ukrainian capital from 2008 to 2015.

Croatia play England in the semifinals in Moscow on Wednesday.

During the group stage of the World Cup, FIFA fined three Switzerland players for making hand gestures of an “Albanian eagle” symbol to celebrate goals against Serbia, and cleared them to continue playing.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who are both of Kosovan-Albanian heritage, received a warning and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,100) for unsporting behavior, in a judgment by FIFA’s disciplinary panel. Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner was warned and fined 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,050).

The FIFA judges had the power to impose two-match bans if the actions of the players in the 2-1 win in Kaliningrad were judged to have provoked the general public.

In a separate ruling, FIFA fined the Serbian football federation 54,000 Swiss francs ($54,700) for incidents involving its fans at the same game.

Serbia was charged for fans’ “display of discriminatory banners and messages by Serbian supporters as well as for throwing objects during the match,” FIFA said.

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