Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Swiss players avoid World Cup ban for eagle celebrations

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri training with the Swiss team Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri training with the Swiss team
Rita Gibson | 25 June, 2018, 22:48

Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner was warned and fined 5,000 Swiss francs ($5,050).

But their efforts on Friday got a mixed reaction from the Swiss media, which showered praise on their performance but criticised their celebrations.

Xhaka, 25, was born in Switzerland to a Kosovar family, and his older brother Taulant plays internationally for Albania.

This nationalist symbol risked inflaming tensions in the Balkans among Serbians - who do not recognise Kosovo's independence - and ethnic Albanians. Kosovo's independence was recognized in 2008, with Federation Internationale de Football Association and UEFA recognizing the country in 2016.

However, many fans noticed a symbol that both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri made to celebrate their respective goals.

That moment when a player lines up shoulder to shoulder with team mates as the national anthem rings out loudly in the stadium is meant to be a moment of pride, but when feelings of political alienation and disenfranchisement set in, some players use the platform to send political messages they way Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri did. Both players were booed by Serbia fans. Kosovo is mostly populated by Albanians.

The Serbian press meanwhile called Shaqiri's goal celebration "shameful provocation".

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Shaqiri was more terse: "I do not play politics, I play football", he said.

Both put their open hands together with their thumbs locked and fingers outstretched to make what looks like the double-headed eagle displayed on Albania's national flag, The Guardian have reported.

Even a draw would be enough on Wednesday for the Swiss in their final Group E match against Costa Rica, which lost its first two games and has already been eliminated. "It was a provocation, we were playing against Switzerland, not Kosovo", official Jovan Surbatovic said.

On the field, Switzerland has never lost in a World Cup to an opponent from CONCACAF, the region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

FIFA said that disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Football Association of Serbia in relation to the behaviour of some supporters.

The build-up to the match had seen exchanges between Serbian players and Shaqiri, who wears boots with the Kosovo flag displayed on one heel and the Swiss one on the other.

However, a tense back-and-forth game saw Xhaka level the game in the second half and Shaqiri win it with a 90th-minute goal.

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