The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has sacked assistant coach Ognjen Vukojevic after he appeared in a controversial video with Domagoj Vida. Vukojevic and Vida made comments including "Glory to Ukraine", the phrase often used by Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalists, after Croatia’s win over Russia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal. Interestingly, Vida was let off after a warning by FIFA. The centre-back in a statement had said that the video was not intended as a political statement, which is apparently banned by FIFA during a match.
Meanwhile, HNS announced that the Vukojevic has been removed as team’s assistant coach and will be no more with the squad. This comes ahead of Croatia’s semi final against England on July 11. Domagoj Vida Cleared to Play in Croatia vs England 2018 Football World Cup Semi Final After FIFA Warning Over 'Glory to Ukraine' Video.
“The Croatian Football Federation hereby notifies the public that Ognjen Vukojevic has been relieved of his duties as an associate of the coaching staff of the Croatian national team by decision of the management of the Croatian FA, and that he will no longer be a member of the Croatian delegation at the FIFA World Cup in Russia,” HNS said in a statement.
“The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has decided to revoke Vukojevic's team accreditation at the FIFA World Cup and to relieve him of his duties as an observer for the Croatian national team,” the statement added.
The statement further read: “HNS hereby apologises to the Russian public for the actions of a member of the Croatian delegation. Ognjen Vukojevic 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.”
Vukojevic also issued a statement and said he has accepted the HNS’ decision. He, however, maintained that the video has no political connotations. "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," Vukojevic said."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 Kiev, 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 apologise 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,” he added.