Ukraine Slogan Dents Putin Bid to Skip Politics at World Cup

Domagoj Vida on July 7. Photographer: Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images

When Croatian defender Domagoj Vida shouted “Glory to Ukraine” in an online video message after his team defeated Russia in the quarterfinals of the soccer World Cup, it was a reminder that sport and politics can’t always be separated whatever Russian President Vladimir Putin might say.

Vida, who played for Dynamo Kyiv for more than five years until January, insisted in an initial statement issued by the Croatian Football Federation that he and coaching assistant Ognjen Vukojevic, who was also in the video, were simply thanking their Ukrainian fans for their support. Vukojevic, who called the win over the host nation “a victory for Dynamo and Ukraine,” also played for Dynamo Kyiv for several years.

Domagoj Vida

“I sincerely hope that this message will not be understood as anything else,” said Vida, who scored Croatia’s second goal in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Russia and smashed home a penalty in the decisive shootout after the teams remained tied at the end of extra time.

On Monday, however, the federation issued another statement announcing that it had revoked Vukojevic’s accreditation and removed him from the national squad for publishing the video. He and Vida “likewise apologize for their statements, which were in no way intended to have political connotations, yet which unfortunately left room for such…

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