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Swiss relief as star trio are 'only' warned and fined for goal celebrations

by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman
KALININGRAD, June 25m 2018 - Swiss World Cup stars Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Stephan Lichtsteiner have escaped suspension after being charged by FIFA over their ‘eagle’ goal celebrations in Friday’s 2-1 Group E win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

The gesture is considered a nationalist symbol representing the double headed eagle on Albania’s national flag and had been considered provocative in Belgrade because of the Kosovo issue.

A statement from the world federation’s disciplinary committee said:

“The Swiss players Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Stephan Lichtsteiner have been sanctioned with fines of CHF 10,000, CHF 10,000 and CHF 5,000 respectively and warnings for having infringed art. 57 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code for unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play during their goal(s) celebrations at the match Switzerland vs. Serbia.”

Switzerland had recovered from 1-0 down to win 2-1 with second-half goals from Arsenal’s Xhaka and Stoke’s Shaqiri. The Swiss had feared suspensions which would have ruled the players out of Wednesday’s crucial Group E match with Costa Rica.

In the aftermath of the match the political tensions boiled over into angry words, particularly from Serb federation president Slavisa Kokeza and coach Mladen Krstajic. Both were warned and fined CHF 5,000 for “unsporting behaviour.”

Kokeza, the 41-year-old president of the Serb federation, had attacked FIFA for appointing German referee Felix Brych and told the BBC that “Serbia was brutally robbed.”

Additionally, the Serb federation was warned and fined CHF 54,000 for “the display of discriminatory banners and messages by Serbian supporters as well as for throwing objects.”

Two years ago Serbia, supported by Switzerland whose national team has benefited from the assimilation of Kosovo/Albanians, sought in vain to prevent Kosovo being granted membership of both FIFA and of European federation UEFA.

Many Kosovar Albanian families fled the country amid fighting with Serbia after Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo and has opposed its every attempt to obtain international recognition.

The families of Xhaka and Shaqiri are both from Kosovo. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo and his family fled to Switzerland as refugees. Xhaka’s father spent three-and-a-half years as a political prisoner in the former Yugoslavia over his support for Kosovar independence.

Shaqiri wears boots displaying the Swiss flag on one heel and the Kosovo flag on the other.

In other issues, FIFA warned and fined the Argentinian federation CHF 105,000 for “the involvement of Argentinian supporters in fights, throwing objects and homophobic and insulting chants as well as for breaching the media and marketing regulations for failing to attend a flash interview after the match.”

The Croatia federation was also warned and fined CHF 13,000 over fan misbehaviour during the same game.


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