Angry Ukraine fans deluge FIFA's Facebook page with posts

MOSCOW/KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine supporters have flooded the Facebook page of football governing body FIFA with over 158,000 comments, most saying “Glory to Ukraine”, after FIFA fined Croatia’s assistant coach for a video in which he used the same slogan.

Veterans of a military conflict in Eastern Ukraine and activists hold a rally to support Croatia's national team assistant coach Ognjen Vukojevic and player Domagoj Vida, in a front of the Croatian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine July 10, 2018. Inscriptions on the banners read: 'Glory to Ukraine', 'Thanks for your support'. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

FIFA hit Ognjen Vukojevic with a 15,000-Swiss-franc (11,385.69 pounds)fine and a warning after he and Croatian defender Domagoj Vida said “Glory to Ukraine” in a video posted after Croatia beat Russia in a World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.

Both men have played for Ukrainian club Dynamo Kiev. Croatia’s Football Federation sacked Vukojevic from the national team’s coaching staff after the video appeared.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia remain highly charged following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and its backing for a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Some Ukrainian politicians have called on countries to boycott the soccer World Cup, which Russia is hosting.

By Tuesday afternoon, FIFA’s Facebook page had over 157,000 reviews from users giving it the lowest one-star rating, most less than 48 hours old and including the phrase “Glory to Ukraine!” Some added “Glory to Croatia!” and “Shame on FIFA!”

FIFA did not immediately comment on the posts.

The reviews section was no longer available on the FIFA page after 12:00 GMT.

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“Support for Russia means support for annexation and military aggression. Shame on you!” posted a user who gave his name as Vadim Ermilow from Kiev.

“Please answer my question: why can a football player not express his attitude towards what is going on in the world?” asked another user, Oleg Nazarov from Ukraine’s Kremenchuk.

Ukraine’s national team did not qualify for the World Cup.

The Ukrainian football authority and some Ukrainian politicians have voiced support for Vukojevic, who FIFA said on Monday had apologised for his actions.

“‘Glory to Ukraine’ is a commonly used greeting in Ukraine ... (and) should not be interpreted as an act of aggression or provocation,” the Football Federation of Ukraine said in a statement on Sunday.

The federation’s president Andry Pavelko, who is also a member of Ukraine’s parliament, offered to employ Vukojevic in Ukraine and reimburse his fine.

The Croatian already works as a coach for Dynamo Kiev, according to the club’s website.

Pavelko showed up at a session of Ukraine’s parliament wearing a checkered red-and-white T-shirt in Croatia’s team colours and said that Vida, who scored a goal in the quarter final with Russia, should get his team to the final.

“Let’s wish that Vida can say again through his performance in the final match the words of gratitude to the country that raised him: ‘Glory to Ukraine!’” Pavelko said.

Croatia face England in the World Cup semi-finals in Moscow on Wednesday.

($1 = 0.9936 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow and Natalia Zinets and Margaryta Chornokondratenko in Kiev; Editing by Catherine Evans/Mark Heinrich