FIFA has confirmed it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, after their goal celebrations during Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia started a diplomatic row.
Both players, who are ethnic Albanians of Kosovar heritage, used their hands to seemingly imitate the eagle on the Albanian flag. Shaqiri also wore boots sporting the Albanian flag.
The gesture has been deemed provocative by Serbia who does not recognise the independence of its former province Kosovo, which broke away 10 years ago and whose 1.8 million people are mostly ethnic Albanians.
The players deny the gesture was political, however, when asked about his celebration after the game, Xhaka said: “For me it was a really special day.
“This is a victory for my family, for Switzerland, Albania, Kosovo. The gesture was for everyone who has supported me; it was not aimed at our opponents. It was a really emotional game.”
For context, Xhaka’s father was arrested and jailed for three and a half years by the Yugoslav government in the late 1980s for protesting in favour of Kosovan independence. He and his family moved to Switzerland in 1990 with Granit born two years later in Basel. His family’s struggles were the focus of a Guardian interview in November.
From what we can tell, there’s a risk of a two-game ban for both Xhaka and Shaqiri which, imposed, would represent a huge blow to the Swiss. After two games they are level with Brazil on 4 points and can qualify from Group E on Wednesday night by beating Costa Rica.
FIFA has also confirmed that it has opened proceedings against the Serbian FA for crowd disturbance, the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. They’ve also opened a preliminary investigation into Serbian coach Mladen Krstajic for some of his post-match comments.