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FIFA Warns Croatian Player Over 'Glory To Ukraine' Comment


Domagoj Vida (center) takes part in a training session in Sochi on July 4.

World soccer's governing body has issued a formal warning to a Croatian player over his praise of Ukraine after his team knocked host Russia out of the World Cup.

However, FIFA's decision on July 8 will not prevent Croatian defender Domagoj Vida from playing in his team’s semifinal matchup against England on July 11 in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

FIFA said it had sent the warning to Vida, who appeared in video following his team's quarterfinal victory in Moscow a day earlier shouting "glory to Ukraine."

"We can confirm that FIFA's disciplinary committee has sent a warning to the player Domagoj Vida due to his video statement following the 2018 FIFA World Cup match between Russia and Croatia," FIFA said in a statement to the AP.

Russia has been hit with waves of international sanctions over its 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a war that has killed 10,300 people since April 2014.

Many Ukrainians and Kremlin critics have slammed FIFA's staging of the World Cup in Russia and say the tournament serves to whitewash Moscow's human rights record and aggression in Ukraine.

The video in question was posted online after Croatia's victory and also featured Vida's teammate, Ognjen Vukojevic, saying, "this win is for Dynamo and Ukraine...go Croatia."

Vida and Vukojevic previously played together at Dynamo Kyiv.

FIFA can issue fines or suspensions against players for political actions at the World Cup. But the warning issued to Vida, who scored a goal in extra time and a penalty in the 4-3 shoot-out win over Russia, will not prevent him from playing in Croatia's semifinal matchup against England.

Vida 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."

Russian state media ran reports about the video, which also drew fire from Russian officials.

"Such actions should be punished," Dmitry Svishchyov, a member of Russia's lower house of parliament, was quoted by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

"Political, nationalist, and racist slogans are not welcome at the World Cup," he added.

Earlier, FIFA fined but did not suspend two Swiss players, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who trace their roots to Kosovo -- a former Serbian province with an ethnic Albanian majority that declared its independence from Belgrade in 2008.

In a Swiss victory over Serbia, the two players had made double-eagle gestures in celebration, referring to Albania's national symbol, which is viewed as a symbol of defiance in Serbia. Belgrade has never recognized Pristina's declaration of independence despite its recognition by 116 other countries.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa
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