Shaqiri caught up in Kosovo militia flag row; Serbs quick to reopen deep wounds

October 11 – Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri has been caught up in a new independence dispute involving Kosovo that has caused outrage in Serbia.

Shaqiri was conducting post-match media duties on the pitch following his side’s 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifying in Geneva at the weekend when a man approached the Lyon midfielder and put a coat around his shoulders that bore the symbol of the UCK – the Kosovo Liberation Army, a militia that fought for Kosovan independence from Serbia.

Shaqiri, who is of Kosovo-Albanian descent, promptly removed the garment and placed it out of sight of the camera before continuing his interview.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday, the Swiss Football Association (SFV) said: “It is unacceptable that people want to use football stadia, and in this case a player’s interview after a match, for political propaganda purposes.

“Xherdan Shaqiri reacted in an exemplary manner, stayed calm and did not react. The man was questioned by police and an immediate stadium ban was imposed on him.”

Back in 2018, Shaqiri and team-mate Granit Xhaka were fined CHF10,000 at the World Cup after celebrating goals in a 2-1 win over Serbia by making a double-headed eagle gesture. FIFA considered the celebration, which symbolised the emblem on the Albanian flag, to be “unsporting behaviour”.

Serbia does not recognise Kosovo and the Serbian newspaper Kurir reacted in typically angry manner to the latest incident describing it as “scandalous” and calling on UEFA to act.

Meanwhile the Serbian FA, seemingly without any justification, seized on the opportunity  to lambast the former Liverpool player, with secretary general Jovan Surbatovic calling for “the strictest sanctions against Shaqiri for promoting the criminal terrorist organization UCK”.

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