Xhaka, Shaqiri and Lichtsteiner could be BANNED for Switzerland's final match over controversial gesture

Ben Rumsby
The Telegraph
Stephan Lichtsteiner (left), the Swiss captain, will face disciplinary proceedings alongside Xherdan Shaqiri (right) and Granit Xhaka following Friday night's heated meeting between Switzerland and Serbia - Getty Images Europe
Stephan Lichtsteiner (left), the Swiss captain, will face disciplinary proceedings alongside Xherdan Shaqiri (right) and Granit Xhaka following Friday night's heated meeting between Switzerland and Serbia - Getty Images Europe

The fallout from Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri’s Albanian 'eagle' salute intensified on Sunday night after Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner joined them in the dock.

Fifa announced it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Xhaka and Shaqiri’s team-mate after it emerged he had also performed the goal celebration in solidarity with the pair during Friday night’s World Cup grudge match with Serbia.

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All three players will be banned for two games – missing Switzerland’s crucial last Group E fixture against Costa Rica and a potential Last 16 match – if they are found guilty of having provoked the crowd.

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Switzerland's Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the group E match between Switzerland and Serbia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad, Russia, Friday, June 22, 2018. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)
Switzerland's Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the group E match between Switzerland and Serbia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad, Russia, Friday, June 22, 2018. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Serbia on Saturday lodged a formal complaint about the actions of Xhaka and Shaqiri in marking their goals in Friday’s game with a pointed reference to their Kosovan-Albanian heritage. It is understood the Football Association of Serbia was on Sunday planning to argue that the salute was in some way connected to the concept of Greater Albania, an expansion of Albania’s borders that would involve the annexation of parts of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and even Greece.

The issue was threatening to break out into a major diplomatic row, with Kosovo’s ambassador to the UK, Lirim Greicevci, vehemently denying the salute had any “nationalist” undertones. “It’s not a ‘Greater Albania’ flag; it’s an Albanian flag,” he told Telegraph Sport. “The Albanian flag is used by the Albanian national minority in Montenegro, in Serbia, in Macedonia.”

<span>Serbia supporters displayed images of war criminal Ratko Mladic pictures on their jerseys </span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Serbia supporters displayed images of war criminal Ratko Mladic pictures on their jerseys Credit: GETTY IMAGES

He added: “Just like you in the UK. There’s the Union flag, the St George’s Cross, the Scottish Saltire. I would also argue that this should not be a provocation to the Serbs, because they use the same symbol – a double-headed eagle – if you look at their flag.

“A provocation is that the Serb fans and Russian fans, they chanted anti-Albanian slogans, like, ‘Kill, kill, kill Albanians’ and displayed [war criminal Ratko] Mladic pictures on their tops.”

Greicevci claimed Serbia’s complaint was motivated purely by the fact they lost to goals from two players with Kosovan roots, declaring: “This is bordering on racism.”

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He added: “When did it become a crime to express your own identity by celebrating something amazing like scoring at the World Cup?”

Fifa on Sunday also extended its disciplinary action against the FSS, opening proceedings against its president, Slavisa Kokeza, for suggesting the match officials on Friday had been biased.

It had already launched action against Serbia’s manager, Mladen Krstajic, for inflammatory comments about the referee, as well as their fans for “crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages”.

Meanwhile Fifa, opened proceedings against two German officials for screaming abuse at the Sweden bench during their country’s dramatic win on Saturday. The Danish FA was also fined after its team’s fans threw objects and displayed a sexist banner during their draw with Australia.

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