GRani Xhaka had previously protested. “We are professional enough that we focus on football,” he said. It should be about one-two and one-two, terms from football language that are harmless. But of course the words double eagle and double citizen hovered over the game between Xhaka’s Swiss and the Serbs on Friday.
Because the story of the duel of the teams from 2018 has not been forgotten. Not with the players and fans from the Balkans, not with the Swiss. That’s why Xhaka added a word to his quote that said that his statement was without guarantee: “Hopefully.” After the extremely emotional 90 minutes plus ample stoppage time, you know: It didn’t quite work out. Xhaka was the focus.
The first provocative gesture came in the 65th minute for most of the spectators in Container Stadium 974 and on the screens. Xhaka was close to the Serbian substitute bench. His team led 3-2 goals, the opponent needed at least two goals and one win to still have a chance of progressing to the round of 16. There was an argument – and an obscene gesture.
Focus on Shaqiri and Xhaka
Xhaka turned to the bench and briefly grabbed his crotch with one hand. That didn’t go unnoticed by the opponent, suddenly a number of Serbs who weren’t supposed to be on the pitch were there. The substitute goalkeeper was particularly upset and received a yellow card from the referee. It was one of eleven. This statistic also shows how heated the mood was.
In addition to Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri was also the center of attention. He was also noticed four and a half years ago in the original duel of the faults when he showed the double-headed eagle after his goal, like Xhaka before him. It is the heraldic animal of ethnic Albanians. At that time, like on Friday, the Swiss won the game and advanced to the round of 16, but lost there to the Swedes.
Now it was Shaqiri of all people who scored the first goal of the game for Switzerland in Doha. Xhaka and Shaqiri were whistled at by Serbian fans while reading out the team rosters. Shaqiri celebrated his goal to make it 1-0 by holding his finger to his lips. Xhaka, on the other hand, could possibly be punished later for his obscene gesture by the world association FIFA.
However, this will hardly be possible for an action after the game. Because it was not only about double eagles and dual citizens, but also ambiguity. While the Swiss were celebrating their place in the round of 16, Xhaka put on his team-mate Ardon Jashari’s jersey with his name forward. He is part of the “Nati” squad in Qatar, but was not used in the three preliminary round games.
In order to see why the action was piquant, you have to know the background to the political conflict: Jashari is also the name of an independence fighter who fought for Kosovo’s detachment from Serbia back in the 1990s. Adem Jashari founded the Albanian separatist militia “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA) and died in 1998 in an operation by Serbian anti-terrorist units.
When asked about his action, Xhaka asserted at the press conference after the game on Saturday night: “It was definitely not a political message.” Jashari is a young player with whom he trains every day and who takes him to the beginning of his own career remember. “I told him before the game that if I score a goal or we win, I’ll put his shirt on,” said Xhaka.