Vida eats hum­ble pie af­ter his Ukraine jibe

Daily Dispatch - - SPORT -

Croa­tia de­fender Do­magoj Vida apol­o­gised af­ter his team’s World Cup semi­fi­nal vic­tory over Eng­land on Wed­nes­day af­ter speak­ing out in sup­port of Rus­sia’s neigh­bour and ad­ver­sary Ukraine.

Spec­ta­tors at Wed­nes­day’s match in Moscow booed and whis­tled the Croa­tia cen­tre­back, af­ter a video posted on­line ear­lier in the week showed Vida, a for­mer player with Ukrainian club side Dy­namo Kiev, say­ing “Glory to Ukraine!”.

“I know I made a mis­take and I would like to apol­o­gise again to Rus­sian peo­ple,” Vida said, speak­ing in Rus­sian.

“I’m sorry. That’s life. You have to learn from your mis­takes,” he added af­ter their 2-1 ex­tra-time win.

Rus­sia’s re­la­tions with Ukraine have been fraught since Moscow an­nexed Crimea in 2014 and backed pro-Rus­sian sep­a­ratists in east­ern Ukraine.

The boo­ing and whis­tles rang out each time Vida touched the ball in the semi­fi­nal against Eng­land, start­ing about 30 min­utes into the first half.

It did not ap­pear to be com­ing from sec­tions of the sta­dium where Eng­land sup­port­ers were con­cen­trated. There were sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of Rus­sians in the sta­dium.

World soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body Fifa ruled that Vida’s com­ments in the video were not in keep­ing with tour­na­ment rules about po­lit­i­cal neu­tral­ity and its dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee is­sued a for­mal warn­ing to the de­fender.

Fifa hit Ogn­jen Vuko­je­vic, a mem­ber of Croa­tia’s coach­ing staff who ap­peared in the video with Vida, with a 15,000-Swiss­franc (R200,000) fine. Vuko­je­vic was fired from his role with the na­tional team.

In an ear­lier state­ment re­leased by the Croa­t­ian Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, Vida, 29, said his com­ments were not in­tended to be po­lit­i­cal and were re­lated to his for­mer ca­reer with Dy­namo Kiev.

“Our in­ten­tion was not to of­fend any­one... I sin­cerely hope that this mes­sage will not be un­der­stood as any­thing else but an ex­pres­sion of grat­i­tude to our friends in Ukraine for their sup­port,” said Vida.

Croa­tia will face France in the World Cup fi­nal on Sun­day. — Reuters

DO­MAGOJ VIDA

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