A Serbian player who has been dubbed the new Russian football hero, Matej Zukanović, has been called the “new Serbian football hero” by some of his Serbian fans.
Zukanovic was reportedly “reborn” as a Croatian when he was aged five in an unnamed country.
But he is now widely known for his international exploits and, after scoring the decisive goal for the Serb national team in the 2010 World Cup, he was named as one of the “top 100 players of the century” by the International Federation of Sport.
His fans have embraced his Russian origins with the hashtag #RussianMatejZukanuć on Twitter, which translates to “new Russian hero”.
“I have never seen such a Russian player and it is really hard to say whether it is Russian or Serbian,” one fan tweeted.
But others, including one who claimed to be Zukanuovic’s former coach, claimed that the player was not Serbian.
“It was Serbian, not Croatian.
Serbian has a great meaning,” the former coach of Zukanovać, Ivan Stankovic, told Interfax.”
Mateja is a great Serbian.
He’s the best player in Croatia.”
Zukanova, now 23, joined Serbian side FC Zenit St Petersburg in 2009 but did not make it into the first team until 2012.
He made his first-team debut in 2012 and was named the first-choice striker in the 2014 World Cup.
His performances in the tournament have earned him international recognition and he has played for the likes of the USA, Germany and England.
However, his international debut has come after Zukanić was sent off in the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Serbian international was sent to the stands after being fouled by Germany defender Timo Werner in the second half of the match.
He was subsequently sent off for his part in the incident.
Zakanoviovic was then controversially sent off at the same World Cup for his violent tackle on Brazil star Neymar.