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Kosovo-Tied Swiss Players Criticized For Albania Gesture At World Cup Game

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri (file photo)
Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri (file photo)

Two players with the Swiss national soccer team have sparked controversy for apparently making a political gesture after scoring goals in the team's 2-1 victory over Serbia in the 2018 World Cup on June 22.

The online version of the Serbian newspaper Blic wrote on June 23 that the gesture "shamefully provoked our fans."

Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic after the match reproached the players, saying that soccer and politics should "never mix."

"It's good to be a fan and important to show respect," Petkovic said.

The two players, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, made a gesture that evokes the double-headed eagle of the Albanian flag after scoring goals in the match in the Russian city of Kaliningrad. Both men have roots in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared independence in 2008.

Shaqiri, who was booed heavily by Serbian fans throughout the match, said afterward that his gesture was "emotional," rather than political. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo.

Xhaka was born in Switzerland, but his ethnic-Albanian parents came from the Serbian city of Kursumlija, where his father was jailed by Yugoslavian authorities in the 1980s for participating in anticommunist demonstrations as a student in the Kosovar capital, Pristina.

Xhaka's brother plays soccer for Albania's national team.

Serbian newspapers also noted that Shaqiri had both Swiss and Kosovar flags on his shoes during the match.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci posted his congratulations to the Swiss team and the two scorers on Twitter, writing "Kosovo loves you!"

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and AFP

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