World Cup: Ognjen Vukojevic expelled from Croatia coaching staff

By HINA  |  July 9, 2018 at 12:43 PM
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July 9 (UPI) -- The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has expelled Ognjen Vukojevic from the national team's coaching staff at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia over a controversial video in which he and his teammate, defender Domagoj Vida, expressed support to Ukraine.

Vukojevic posted the video on social media after Croatia beat Russia in the quarterfinals. In it, Vida, who had played for Dynamo Kyiv for four years, shouted "Glory to Ukraine", while Vukojevic, who also played in Ukraine and is now a scout for Dynamo Kyiv, added "This win is for Dynamo and Ukraine."

Vukojevic and Vida have received a formal warning from football's international governing body, FIFA, which strictly forbids any political messages at tournaments. The video went viral in Russia, drawing protests.

The HNS said that Vukojevic's World Cup accreditation had been withdrawn and that he had been removed from the national team.

Vukojevic apologized, saying he respected the HNS's decision.

"I understand and respect the decision of the Croatian Football Federation. I would never want to be a burden to the national team, especially not ahead of a match as monumental as the World Cup semi-final, when the team is most in need of a peaceful atmosphere. My statements were truly not intended to have any political connotations, and my only intention was to thank my friends in Ukraine for their support, and to thank my club, Dynamo Kyiv, for permitting me to participate at the World Cup.

"However, I understand that my statements unfortunately could have been interpreted differently, for which I am sorry. I apologize to the Russian public if they have understood my statements in such a way. I am extremely proud of what Croatia has done in Russia so far, and I wish the boys the best of luck for the rest of the tournament. I will be their biggest fan until the very end!"

Vukojevic is the second member of the Croatia team to be sent home earlier, after Milan striker Nikola Kalinic was dismissed. Kalinic was reportedly unhappy with his status in the team and refused to play in the games against Brazil and Nigeria, after which the coach Dalic sent him packing.

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