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Monday, June 25, 2018

The polemic "double-headed eagle" celebration at Russia

Por MRod

They played with the Swiss shirt but Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrated their goals against the Serbian team in the 2018 World Cup by making a gesture from another place: they crossed their hands to make the "double-headed eagle", a symbol of the nationalists Albanians. This has brought the od controversy of mixing politics and sports.

The Swiss form of celebration raised the anger of the Serbs and brought to the sports competition the political tensions that are still being experienced in the Balkans. The "double-headed eagle" is an image that appears on the Albanian national flag, so critics of the gesture of both players say it could stoke the animosity among Serbian nationalists. We all know that the game ended 2-1 in favor of the Swiss. But how and why the gesture has raised so much controversy?BBC Monitoring reported that in Serbia, the pro-government daily Informer referred derogatively to the Albanians, saying that "the Albanian clan within the team of" the watchmakers "are shooting poisoned arrows for weeks, so the match could not go without a provocation."

Some Swiss newspapers also described the gesture as provocation and criticized the lack of political sensitivity of the players. Both strikers had been booed by the Serbian fans during the game.After the game, Shaqiri wanted to downplay what happened. "It was just emotion, I'm very happy to have scored this goal, I think we should not talk about this now," he said. He had better thought of it before, because it has brought a ot of noise to the competition.

It was later revealed that the families of Xhaca and Shaqiri are originally from Kosovo, where the Albanian population was severely punished by Serbian nationalists in the 1990s, to the point that NATO military intervention was required to stop the hostilities. Then, the ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but neither Serbia nor its ally Russia nor the majority of Kosovars of Serbian origin recognize it. Before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Xhaka's father spent three and a half years in prison for his support of Kosovo's independence. The young man, however, was born in Switzerland after his parents emigrated to that country. Shaqiri, meanwhile, was born in Kosovo but then his family settled in Switzerland under refugee status. The striker uses soccer boots that show the flag of Switzerland on one heel and that of Albania on the other. When his name was announced at the stadium, Serbian fans booed him harshly.

"If he loves Kosovo so much and decides to carry his flag, why did he then refuse the chance to play with his national team?" Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic asked critically. However, the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, applauded the gesture of both players and said he was "proud" of them. "Kosovo loves you," he said. Their celebration, however, was not praised by the technical director of the Swiss team, Vladimir Petkovic, who -by the way- is also from the Balkans because he was born in Bosnia. "You should never mix football and politics," he said at the end of the game. What is your opinion about this?