FIFA World Cup 2018: How Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal celebration against Serbia turned political
Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage during Switzerland’s 2-1 victory over Serbia on Friday at the FIFA World Cup 2018.Updated: Jun 23, 2018 08:39 IST
Xherdan Shaqiri refused to be drawn into a political discussion after making a gesture evoking the Albanian flag following his game-winning goal for Switzerland against Serbia.
The 26-year-old kept his cool in the 90th minute of the crucial World Cup Group E clash, slotting the ball into the net to complete Switzerland’s comeback after they had fallen behind early in the first half.
As he wheeled away in celebration, the Kosovo-born playmaker crossed his hands to imitate an eagle, which appears on Albania’s flag, prompting reporters to ask whether the gesture was a statement in light of Serbia’s failure to recognise his birthplace as an independent state.
“I don’t want to speak about this,” Shaqiri replied. “In football you always have emotions. You can see what I did, I have emotions.
“I am happy to score this goal. We don’t have to speak about this now.”
The Stoke City player - who has been linked with a move to Liverpool - paid tribute to his teammates for turning the match around, a feat he suggested the Switzerland squad of years gone by would not have achieved.
Shaqiri had hit the crossbar in the first half before substitute Mario Gavranovic played him in to grab the dramatic winner.
“I think it was a great pass from Gavranovic and I went deep,” said Shaqiri. “I knew it was a good opportunity and I had a good feeling, a good instinct to put it away.
“Our players play at top clubs all over Europe. We turned the match around and this is something we wouldn’t have achieved years ago.”
Like Shaqiri, Switzerland head coach Vladimir Petkovic declined the opportunity to discuss political matters surrounding the fixture.
“You should never mix politics and football,” he said. “It’s good to be a fan, it’s important to show respect. It’s a wonderful atmosphere and positive emotions and that’s what football should be about.
“It’s not just my opinion, the entire federation and the team and the entire world should actually share that opinion because it’s something we do not need here.
“I think we should not talk that much but show our mettle on the pitch.”
Petkovic paid tribute to the Switzerland fans for the backing they gave their team despite being outnumbered by Serbia supporters, and picked out Granit Xhaka’s equalising goal as the turning point in the game.
He added: “Our fans were backing us all through the 90 minutes and with this kind of atmosphere, it had a positive impact on all of my players.
“We found our balance in the second half. After the first goal I was euphoric. It was an excellent way we scored and after the first half no one would believe we were able to turn around.
“It was very emotional.”