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22nd Jun 2018

The significance of Granit Xhaka’s celebration was not lost on supporters

Xherdan Shaqiri used the exact same celebration

Darragh Murphy

If not for the net, Granit Xhaka’s strike would still be travelling skywards.

A thunderbolt from Xhaka shortly after half-time in Switzerland’s Group E clash with Serbia on Friday night inspired a dramatic comeback at the Kaliningrad Stadium.

The Swiss captain latched on to a spinning ball on the edge of the Serbian box and rocketed a technically perfect effort into the back of the net.

Xhaka then wheeled away to celebrate arguably the best goal of his career and used a hand gesture to pay tribute to his Albanian ancestry.

The Arsenal midfielder put his hands together to recreate the symbol of the Albanian Eagle in a move which many viewers felt was controversial.

Xhaka was born in Serbia to Kosovan-Albanian parents and his brother, Taulant, represents the Albania national team.

The 25-year-old has previously spoken to The Guardian about his father’s three and a half years as a political prisoner in Yugoslavia.

“As far as I know, his first few months in jail were OK,” Xhaka said. “But then the beatings started.”

Stoke City’s Shaqiri scored a 90th-minute winner with a composed finish and, like Xhaka, he broke out the Alabanian Eagle as his celebration.

Shaqiri was also born to Kosovan-Albanian parents and has proudly displayed flags depicting his heritage before.

He recently told the Player’s Tribune: “In 2012, when we played against Albania, I put the flags of Switzerland, Albania and Kosovo on my boots, and some of the Swiss newspapers were saying all kinds of negative things about it. I was criticised for it, but it’s crazy to me that some people feel this way because it’s simply my identity.

“The great thing about Switzerland is that the country has been very welcoming to people who come from war and poverty who are looking for a good life.”