Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri risk receiving a two-game World Cup ban for their goal celebrations in Switzerland’s last-gasp victory over Serbia on Friday night, with Fifa opening an investigation over a potential breach of their political and offensive messages regulation.
Fifa will look at the two incidents in question after Xhaka and Shaqiri – both ethnic Albanians from Kosovo – appeared to make a gesture that mirrored the Albanian ‘double-headed eagle’ flag.
Conflict between Serbia and the Albanian population of Kosovo in the 1990s has left plenty of ill-feeling between the two nations, and while Xhaka was born in Switzerland, the Arsenal midfielder has made a point of embracing his Kosovan roots – due to his father being a political prisoner who was jailed in the former Yugoslavia for three-and-a-half years. Shaqiri was born in the Kosovan city of Gjilan, before emigrating with his family to Switzerland as a young boy.
The gestures were picked up on immediately after Friday night’s match, with Fifa confirming an investigation had been launched last on Saturday.
A statement read: “The Fifa disciplinary committee has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for their goal celebration during the match Switzerland vs Serbia.”
According to Fifa’s disciplinary code, article 54 states that “anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches and sanctioned with a minimum fine of 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,800)”.
Serbian fans inside the stadium were incensed by the gestures, which are thought to be pro-Greater Albania, with Albanian nationalists claiming they own parts of Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece according to the BBC.
Should they be found guilty and handed the maximum punishment, Xhaka and Shaqiri will miss the Swiss’ final Group E game against Costa Rica – a potential must-win encounter if Serbia beat Brazil – as well as the last-16 tie against one of Germany, Mexico and Sweden should they go on to qualify.
Shaqiri was asked about his decision to perform the gesture after scoring an injury-time winner in the 2-1 victory, but perhaps fearing further sanction, he batted questions away.
“I can’t discuss the gesture I am afraid. We are footballers not politicians,” he said. “All I can say is that I scored a goal I am proud of. We can’t discuss anything else. Emotions sometimes take over footballers and there was a lot of emotion out there. To score a goal like that – it is very difficult to keep your emotions under check.”
Fifa have also launched an investigation against Serbia after a group of fans were seen wearing offensive jumpers at the game, which featured the face of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic.
“In relation to the same match, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Serbian FA for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans,” the statement continued.
“Furthermore, a preliminary investigation has been opened against the coach of the Serbian national team Mladen Krstajic for alleged statements made in the aftermath of the said match.”
The head coach made a complaint through the Serbian Football Association regarding the performance of the officials in the match, with Krstajic making comments about Felix Brych in the aftermath of the match as well as Serbian FA vice-president Savo Milosevic.
The Fifa disciplinary committee has also sanctioned the Polish Football Association with a fine of 10,000 Swiss Francs after fans displayed a political and offensive banner during the match against Senegal.
The Argentinian FA and Croatian FA have also had disciplinary proceedings opened against them after crowd disturbances.
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