Tempers flared during a decisive World Cup match between Serbia and Switzerland
© Marvin Ibo Guengoer — GES Sportfoto/Getty Images © Getty Images
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has been accused of provoking Serbia by grabbing his crotch and wearing a politically charged t-shirt after his team, Switzerland, guaranteed qualification to the Qatar 2022 World Cup knockout phase on Friday.
The Swiss came back from 2-1 down to set up a last 16 meeting with Group H winners Portugal on Tuesday.
Xhaka was involved in a back-and-forth exchange with the Serbian bench during the match and grabbed his crotch.
“You can hear from my voice that I am hoarse. It is a game with a lot of emotion. That’s football. It was fair enough. We wanted to focus on football,” he said post-match.
He was defended by his manager, Murat Yakin, who claimed that it was a “normal exchange” between his player and the Serbian dugout.
“I saw Granit focus on football. It was a fair game. It was a normal exchange with a bit of emotions. It cost us a lot of power and a lot of emotions. We started well, took the lead but then we lost possession twice and fell behind,” Yakin said.
Xhaka is a menace 🤣🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/2XoU9VK6qO
— Av (@aviv_lavi) December 3, 2022
Celebrating the win, Xhaka donned a shirt with the name ‘Jashari’ on the back and turned it round.
He insisted it was a tribute to Swiss squad member Ardon Jashari, but the item has also been taken as paying homage to the founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Adem Jashari, who headed the Kosovo Albanian separatist group that fought to gain independence from Yugoslavia.
In 2008, Kosovo declared independence, but this has not been recognized by Serbia. Xhaka, who, like teammate Xherdan Shaqiri, is of ethnic Albanian heritage with links to Kosovo, stressed that there is “no political background” related to the shirt.
“Ardon is part of our squad and we spend a lot of time together. I told him if we won I would wear his shirt.”
Yakin said he would “wait and see” if FIFA takes action against Xhaka for what could be considered a political celebration or statement.
Xhaka and Shaqiri have previous run-ins with Serbia going back to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
After last night's match, Granit Xhaka took the shirt of #SUI teammate Ardon Jashari (an unused sub, 1 cap) to celebrate win over #SRB. He wore shirt backwards to display 'Jashari'. Coincidentally, Adem Jashari was a founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Xhaka denies any link. pic.twitter.com/Ok9ohPFbI6
— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) December 3, 2022
They crossed their hands to mimic the double-headed eagle on the Albanian flag when scoring as Switzerland beat Serbia 2-1 – and were later fined by FIFA for the act.
Shaqiri scored Switzerland’s opening goal in the most recent win at Stadium 974, but this time opted to put his finger over his mouth.
Elsewhere in Group G, Brazil was beaten 1-0 by Cameroon when fielding a second-string team but had already secured their status as group winners by winning against Switzerland and Serbia to guarantee a last 16 tie against South Korea on Monday.