The two players each crossed their hands into an eagle gesture after finding the net in the World Cup Group E clash on Friday
Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka both performed ‘double eagle’ hand gestures after scoring for Switzerland against Serbia on Friday, seemingly making a clear political statement.
Both players appeared to evoke the Albanian flag after finding the net in the 2-1 victory for the Swiss that saw Shaqiri slot home a late winner.
The 26-year-old kept his cool in the 90th minute of the crucial World Cup Group E clash to complete Switzerland’s comeback after they had fallen behind early on in the first half.
As he wheeled away in celebration, the Kosovo-born playmaker crossed his hands to imitate an eagle, which appears on Albania’s flag, prompting reporters to ask whether the gesture was a statement in light of Serbia’s failure to recognise his birthplace as an independent state.
“I don’t want to speak about this,” Shaqiri replied. “In football you always have emotions. You can see what I did, I have emotions.
“I am happy to score this goal. We don’t have to speak about this now.”
Granit Xhaka celebrated in a similar way after scoring a brilliant long-range goal, with both players having Albanian heritage. Xhaka’s father was imprisoned for demonstrating against Serbia’s government in the 1980s.
Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, a country that declared independence from Serbia in 2008, although the Balkan nation doesn’t recognise that. The Stoke City player also wore boots featuring both the Swiss and Kosovan flags.
The 26-year-old – who has been linked with a move to Liverpool – paid tribute to his team-mates for turning the match around, a feat he suggested the Switzerland squad of years gone by would not have achieved.
Shaqiri had hit the crossbar in the first half before substitute Mario Gavranovic played him in to grab the dramatic winner.
“I think it was a great pass from Gavranovic and I went deep,” said Shaqiri. “I knew it was a good opportunity and I had a good feeling, a good instinct to put it away.
“Our players play at top clubs all over Europe. We turned the match around and this is something we wouldn’t have achieved years ago.”
Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner, meanwhile, came to the defence of Shaqiri and team-mate Xhaka, but head coach Vladimir Petkovic declined the opportunity to discuss political matters surrounding the fixture.
“You should never mix politics and football,” he said. “It’s good to be a fan, it’s important to show respect. It’s a wonderful atmosphere and positive emotions and that’s what football should be about.
“It’s not just my opinion, the entire federation and the team and the entire world should actually share that opinion because it’s something we do not need here.”I think we should not talk that much but show our mettle on the pitch.”
Petkovic paid tribute to the Switzerland fans for the backing they gave their team despite being outnumbered by Serbia supporters, and picked out Granit Xhaka’s equalising goal as the turning point in the game.
He added: “Our fans were backing us all through the 90 minutes and with this kind of atmosphere, it had a positive impact on all of my players.
“We found our balance in the second half. After the first goal I was euphoric. It was an excellent way we scored and after the first half no one would believe we were able to turn around.
“It was very emotional.”