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23rd Jun 2018

Meaning of Shaqiri and Xhaka’s celebration against Serbia means they face two-game ban

Matthew Gault

We may not have heard the last of this.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri could face punishment over their goal celebrations in Switzerland’s 2-1 victory over Serbia.

Xhaka and Shaqiri both made an Albanian nationalist Black Eagle symbol after scoring as the Swiss came back from a goal down to win their Group E clash on Friday evening.

The Swiss duo are both of Kosovar-Albanian heritage and the celebrations were perceived in some quarters as being provocative considering the backdrop of tension between ethnic Albanians and nationalist Serbs.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo and had the country’s flag stitched onto the heel of one of his boots, with the Swiss flag on the other.

Xhaka’s father was imprisoned in the former Yugoslavia for campaigning for Kosovan independence. The Arsenal midfielder’s older brother, Taulant, represents Albania at international level having played for Switzerland’s youth teams.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Serbia still does not recognise Kosovo’s independence. The relationship between the two nations remains tense, with Xhaka and Shaqiri among the Swiss players being whistled by Serbia-supporting Russians in Kaliningrad on Friday.

The Football Association are thought to be contemplating writing to FIFA to formally complain about the pair’s ‘political celebrations.’

FIFA can sanction the two players if their celebrations are deemed to have provoked the general public. If found guilty, Xhaka and Shaqiri face being banned for two games.

Shaqiri brushed off suggestions of political connotations with his celebration, saying it was instead the product of pure emotion.

“It was a fantastic goal,” the Stoke City winger said.”An important goal for my team and I am very proud I was able to score it for them. I can’t discuss the gesture I’m afraid. We are footballers, not politicians… Emotions sometimes take over footballers and there was a lot of emotion out there.”

Xhaka also said his celebration was an emotional one and not political: “Frankly, my opponents did not interest me at all. It was for my people, who always supported me. For those who did not neglect me, in my homeland, where my parents’ roots are. These were purely emotions.”