Serbian Football Association complain about Swiss footballers Xhaka, Shaqiri eagle salute celebration

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Serbian Football Association, on Saturday, lodged a complaint with FIFA against Swiss footballers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for their eagle salute celebration. FIFA later launched an investigation for disciplinary actions against the two players.

In Friday's match, Switzerland defeated Serbia 2–1 with goals from Xhaka and Shaqiri. Both the players celebrated their goals by making hand gestures resembling the double-headed eagle on the Albanian national flag. Xhaka and Shaqiri are both of Kosovar-Albanian origin, and grew up in Switzerland. Kosovo is a former Serbian province which separated from the country in 2008. Serbia, however, does not recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state. A large proportion of the 1.8 million citizens of Kosovo are ethnic Albanians.

Xherdan Shaqiri's football boots had both an Albanian flag and a Swiss flag. After the match, the Serbian Football Association secretary general, Jovan Surbatovic, said he would raise the issues of the "boots, a question of several controversial flags and the celebration of both goals for Switzerland". Per FIFA guidelines, players found guilty of "provoking the general public" face a fine as well as suspension for up to two matches.

After the match, Granit Xhaka said, "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." Meanwhile Shaqiri, who scored the late winning goal said, "I can't discuss the gesture I am afraid. We are footballers, not politicians[...] Emotions sometimes take over footballers and there was a lot of emotion out there."

Swiss coach Vladimir Petković said, "I think we all together need to steer away from politics in football and we should focus on this sport as a beautiful game and something that brings people together."

Two Swiss government officials, Sports Minister Guy Parmelin and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis supported Xhaka and Shaqiri's celebration. Cassis said, "I have no doubt that you can feel patriotic emotions for the land which has taken you in without forgetting your roots".

FIFA has also launched an investigation for disciplinary action against Serbian supporters for "the display of political and offensive messages". Another action is being taken against Serbian Football Association president Slavisa Kokeza for asserting that the match officials, including German referee Felix Brych, were biased towards Switzerland.