The user rating of FIFA’s Facebook page has nose-dived after tens of thousands of users flooded it with angry messages. It comes after a Croatian World Cup player and staff member were heard saying ‘Glory to Ukraine’ in a video.
The apparent online mob attack on the football organization comes after it reprimanded Croatian defender Domagoj Vida for publishing a video of himself and assistant coach Ognjen Vukojevic.
In the video, the pair dedicated their team’s World Cup quarter-final win against Russia to Ukraine and Dynamo Kiev, the club for which both have played. Vida is also heard saying “Glory to Ukraine” – a controversial chant much-favored in modern Ukraine. FIFA ruled that the video violated its fair-play rules and issued a warning, while Croatia’s football federation later sacked Vukojevic.
The decision from FIFA didn’t go down well in Ukraine, the government of which has been involved in a campaign aimed at undermining the Russia-hosted World Cup. Its football officials and diplomats rushed to explain to the world that saying “Glory to Ukraine” is no different from saying “Viva la France,” and how the chant now serves as a symbol of patriotism and opposition to big bad Russia.
Meanwhile, some public figures, including Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko and the director of Ukraine’s National Remembrance Institute, Vladimir Vyatrovich, called on Ukrainians and their supporters to flood FIFA’s Facebook page with negative ratings and criticism. (Lutsenko appeared to sit on the fence, as his own Facebook account rated FIFA with three stars, not one).
By mid-Tuesday, the page had over 159,000 1-star reviews and a rating of 1.1, as well as tens of thousands of comments, most of them in English and Russian, denouncing the ruling over the Croatia video. Hours later the ranking option was removed for the page.
The claim that the ‘Glory to Ukraine’ slogan is not political is somewhat misleading. Originating in the 1920s, it was adopted and widely used by the Nazi-allied radical Ukrainian nationalists during World War II. It can be used in full as a greeting call and a response: “Glory to Ukraine – Glory to heroes,” and sometimes two more phrases are added: “Glory to the nation – Death to enemies.” It saw a resurgence in Ukraine in 2014, spreading from the chants of radical right-wing elements in the so-called Maidan protest into general use.
The situation is hardly unique to Ukraine. Croatia too is struggling to reconcile elements of its Nazi-linked past with contemporary life. The government this year suggested giving a waiver to a ban on the slogan of the Ustashe movement, “For the homeland ready,” because it was widely used by Croatian troops during the 1990s Balkan war.