- The Switzerland squad that lined up against Serbia had players of Kosovan ancestry
- Xhaka and Shaqiri, two of these, incidentally scored the goals that gave victory to Switzerland.
When Switzerland faced off against Serbia in the Group E at the World Cup in Russia on Friday night, there was more at stake for some players. These players were Valon Behrami, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka.
The above-mentioned players are of Kosovan ancestry. In the wars of the 1980s and 1990s between Serbia and people of the nation now known as Kosovo, thousands fleed. Behrami and the other two had families among the Kosovan refugees who settled in Switzerland.
Serbia still refuses to recognise that Kosovo is an independent nation. For most Serbians, the land of Kosovo belongs Serbia.
And so when Shaqiri walked out onto the pitch with the flag of Kosovo printed on one of his boots, he was booed by a section of Serbian fans. When he went to score the winner for Switzerland in the 90th minute, it is safe to say it meant more than just a goal to him.
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Kosovo only got FIFA approval in 2016. But before then, the country's football authorities had tried to get Shaqiri, Behrami and Xhaka to play for them. But this was almost impossible because Switzerland presented a more realistic opportunity at international success.
However, Granit Xhaka's brother, Taulant, plays for the national team of Albania. The two even met at the Euros in 2016 when Switzerland played against Albania.
Xhaka himself scored Switzerland's equaliser in the game against Serbia on Friday night. It was a wonderful trademark shot outside the goal area.
British newspaper The Sun reports that both he and Shaqiri gestured towards the Serbian fans after scoring their goals. This would not have been regarded well in and out of the stadium.
This is a tale that portrays that even football is not immune to the politics. It does not seem like that will ever be the case.
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