Switzerland take on Serbia at the World Cup on Thursday night and while this is a tough match in Group G, for a number of players this game means a lot more.
Indeed, this is a game that is fraught with a number of geo-political sub-plots surrounding a number of Albanian-born players within Switzerland’s squad – namely Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka.
The pair scored both against Serbia in their meeting in 2018 and celebrated with the rather controversial ‘Eagle of Albania’ celebration, but what is the meaning of the gesture?
The Albanian Eagle explained
The symbolism behind this holiday is quite simple. The crossed hands with outstretched fingers are meant to represent the eagle that appears on the Albanian flag.
The gesture resembles the double-headed eagle on the Albanian flag and is also related to the Albanian ethnicity where Albanians call themselves “Shqiptar” (son of the eagle) and their country “Alhqipëri” (land of eagles).
But why do the Swiss players celebrate by showing a symbol of Albania? Well, players such as Shaqiri and Xhaka were born in the ethnic-Albanian region of the old Yugoslavia that was oppressed by the Serbian population at the time.
More than a million Kosovars and Albanians were driven from their homes during this period, including the families of Xhaka and Shaqiri who moved to Switzerland.
Shaqiri and Xhaka would grow up representing the Swiss team, but their ties to Albania and Kosovo have always been part of their identity and they made sure to show the Serbs that in 2018.
Now, a rematch has been set in Qatar and tensions could boil over again if any player in Switzerland’s squad of Albanian or Kosovar heritage finds the back of the net and celebrates in this way.
In 2018, Xhaka and Shaqiri were fined for their celebrations, with FIFA hoping to prevent any political messaging during the World Cup, but whether or not that punishment will stop any Swiss players celebrating in such a manner this time around remains to be seen.
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