Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka scored a screamer in Switzerland’s win over Serbia – before he celebrated with an extremely controversial gesture.
The Arsenal star scored Switzerland’s first goal with a thumping long-range effort before celebrating vigorously with a ‘double eagle’ gesture – the symbol of Albania.
Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, 2 native Albanians, combine to defeat Serbia, the same nation that enacted genocide on their home country, and that made their own families into refugees.
No matter what, politics & cultural pride will always play an integral role in football.
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) June 22, 2018
Now to say that celebration is controversial would be polite. Later, teammate Xherdan Shaqiri replicated the same gesture after his winning goal in the 90th minute, but not as intensely as Xhaka.
Xhaka was born to Kosovo-Albanian parents who were forced to flee the fall of Yugoslavia in 1990. Xhaka’s father was even imprisoned for more than three years for demonstrating against the Communist regime in the late 1980s.
Shaqiri was born in present-day Kosovo but emigrated with his family to Switzerland when he was a baby.
The Kosovo War that ended in 1999 remains a contentious territory in both Serbia and Albania with the region currently residing within Serbia, but having it’s own Fifa-recognised team.
Serbia is considered the modern-day successor of the Yugoslavia football team.
Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic said politics and football should “never mix” after his two players celebrated goals with the political gestures.
“You should never mix politics and football, it’s good to be a fan and important to show respect,” Petkovic said.
“It’s clear that emotions surface. I think on and off the pitch we need to steer away from politics in football and we should focus on this as a sport that brings people together.”
loool Xhaka & Shaqiri doubling down with the Albanian eagle celebrationpic.twitter.com/UCugIIe1ZS
— ㅤ🇨🇩🇸🇱 (@6Flavs) June 22, 2018
Shaqiri had been booed relentlessly by Serbia fans during the high-quality match, but had the last laugh with his last ditch winner.
“In football you have always emotions and you can see what I did and it’s just emotion,” he said in reference to his controversial celebration.
“I’m very happy to score the goal, that’s all.”
Most onlookers were also happy to see the pair making the gestures on the pitch, taking to Twitter to discuss the poignant moments.
Significant celebration from Xhaka. An ethnic Albanian Serb whose family had to flee Kosovo from Serbia and his father was put in prison for 3 years protesting Yugoslavian rule. He does the Albanian Eagle – the symbol of Albania. #worldcup
— Ian Greenhill 🚀 (@ohjawbone) June 22, 2018
— Sokol Havolli (@sokolhavolli) June 22, 2018
Xhaka doing what appeared to be the Albanian eagle as his celebration after that amazing goal vs Serbia… spot of Balkan politics there #SERSWI
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) June 22, 2018
A screamer followed by the double eagle celebration against Serbia at the World Cup. Yep, that's easily the biggest goal of Xhaka's career. pic.twitter.com/kHAJa0MKMq
— Jas (@JasAFC) June 22, 2018
Xhaka's father was imprisoned by the Serbian government for over 3 years for protesting. Today, he fired a left-footed missile into the Serbian goal and proceeds to celebrate by doing the Albanian eagle. Can't keep us down. #JemiNje #WorldCup #SRBSUI 🇦🇱🇨🇭
— Θεοδωράκης (@chevelo24) June 22, 2018
Granit Xhaka on his goal tonight:
"The world might not know the story, but ask any Albanian. This is history being made. A team that's not even at the #WorldCup scored today, not once, but twice. Serbia one, Albania two!" 🇦🇱🇨🇭🇽🇰 pic.twitter.com/58H8B2BICT
— Team Albanians (@TeamAlbanians) June 22, 2018
However not everyone was enjoying the political gesture, as Serbian fans booed in the stadium, other football fans shared their disgust at the gestures on Twitter.
What a goal from Xhaka. Had been criticised for not doing enough in first game by Swiss media. Not sure the double eagle celebration was a wise move v Serbia however.
— Raphael Honigstein (@honigstein) June 22, 2018
Disgusting celebration by Xhaka and Shaqiri. Sports and politics shouldn’t be mixed. I expect a FIFA sanction but of course that won’t happen. Plus that penalty was smth serious for reviewing #SRBSUI
— Sergio Marin (@smarinrod) June 22, 2018
With Hamish Williams – Yahoo UK