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Croatia Fires Soccer Coaching Assistant After Player's 'Glory To Ukraine' Video


A file photo of Ognjen Vukojevic from 2013.

Croatia's soccer federation said it was firing an assistant coach for his role in a controversial video by a Croatian player following the team's World Cup victory over Russia.

The decision against Ognjen Vukojevic, announced by the federation on July 9, was the latest fallout from the video which showed defender Domagoj Vida celebrating his team's victory by saying "Glory to Ukraine."

Both Vukojevic and Vida previously played for the Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv.

"The Croatian Football Federation apologizes to the Russian public for the actions of a member of the Croatian delegation," it said.

"Ognjen Vukojević and Domagoj Vida likewise apologize for their statements, which were in no way intended to have political connotations, yet which unfortunately left room for such interpretations," the statement said.

In the video, Vukojevic is shown saying "this win is for Dynamo and Ukraine.... Go Croatia."

The video caused an uproar in Russia, prompting an investigation by world soccer governing body FIFA. Some Russian politicians asserted the saying "Glory to Ukraine" was a nationalist slogan, and thus violated FIFA rules.

FIFA later announced a $15,000 fine against Vukojevic, and a warning against Vida. However, Vida will still be allowed to play in Croatia's semifinal match against England on July 11.

Vida, who scored a crucial goal against Russia in the quarterfinal match on July 7, was quoted by the Russian newspaper Sport Express as saying that the video was intended to be a personal message.

"There's no politics in football. It's a joke for my friends from Dynamo Kyiv," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "I love Russians and I love Ukrainians."

The incident was not the first at this year's World Cup in Russia. Earlier, FIFA fined but did not suspend two Swiss players for celebrating goals by making a gesture in the sign of a double-headed eagle -- a symbol of Albania.

The players -- Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri -- trace their roots to Kosovo -- the former Serbian province with an ethnic Albanian majority and which declared its independence from Belgrade in 2008.

With reporting by Reuters
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