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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Manager rebukes Swiss players' nationalist gesture during Serbia game 

The 'double eagle' gesture represents the Albanian flag which many Kosovans from the breakaway province of Serbia identify with. 

epa06831860 Switzerland's midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring the 1-1 equalizer during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group E preliminary round soccer match between Switzerland and Serbia in Kaliningrad, Russia, 22 June 2018. (RESTRICTIONS APPLY: Editorial Use Only, not used in association with any commercial entity - Images must not be used in any form of alert service or push service of any kind including via mobile alert services, downloads to mobile devices or MMS messaging - Images must appear as still images and must not emulate match action video footage - No alteration is made to, and no text or image is superimposed over, any published image which: (a) intentionally obscures or removes a sponsor identification image; or (b) adds or overlays the commercial identification of any third party which is not officially associated with the FIFA World Cup) EPA/LAURENT GILLIERON EDITORIAL USE ONLY
epa06831860 Switzerland's midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring the 1-1 equalizer during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group E preliminary round soccer match between Switzerland and Serbia in Kaliningrad, Russia, 22 June 2018. (RESTRICTIONS APPLY: Editorial Use Only, not used in association with any commercial entity - Images must not be used in any form of alert service or push service of any kind including via mobile alert services, downloads to mobile devices or MMS messaging - Images must appear as still images and must not emulate match action video footage - No alteration is made to, and no text or image is superimposed over, any published image which: (a) intentionally obscures or removes a sponsor identification image; or (b) adds or overlays the commercial identification of any third party which is not officially associated with the FIFA World Cup) EPA/LAURENT GILLIERON EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Two Swiss players have received a rebuke from their manager after making a political hand gesture to celebrate scoring during their recent 2-1 win over Serbia.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka pointedly celebrated scoring by making a double eagle gesture with their hands to represent the Albanian flag, with which many people in Kosovo identify.

Granit Xhaka, left, Xherdan Shaqiri created controversy in Switzerland's game against Serbia at the World Cup. Laurent Gillieron / EPA
Granit Xhaka, left, Xherdan Shaqiri created controversy in Switzerland's game against Serbia at the World Cup. Laurent Gillieron / EPA

The move led Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic to say politics and football should "never mix" after two players with Kosovan roots celebrated goals in a 2-1 victory over Serbia with political gestures.

Shaqiri's last minute winner capped an impressive comeback for the Swiss in an eventful Group E encounter in Kaliningrad after Xhaka levelled following Aleksandar Mitrovic's opener.

Both Shaqiri and Xhaka have roots in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that has declared independence, a fact that stoked tensions before and during Friday's clash.

Although the win puts Switzerland in pole position to make it out of a tough group containing five-times winners Brazil, Petkovic was unimpressed with his players' celebrations.

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"You should never mix politics and football, it's good to be a fan and important to show respect," he told reporters after the game.

"It's clear that emotions surface. I think on and off the pitch we need to steer away from politics in football and we should focus on this as a sport that brings people together."

Shaqiri had been booed relentlessly by Serbia fans throughout a high-quality match, but the Stoke City forward had the last laugh with his last-ditch winner.

"In football, you have always emotions and you can see what I did and it's just emotion," he said in reference to his controversial celebration.

"I'm very happy to score the goal, that's all."

epa06831890 Switzerland's midfielder Granit Xhaka (C) celebrates with his teammates after scoring the 1-1 equalizer during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group E preliminary round soccer match between Switzerland and Serbia in Kaliningrad, Russia, 22 June 2018. (RESTRICTIONS APPLY: Editorial Use Only, not used in association with any commercial entity - Images must not be used in any form of alert service or push service of any kind including via mobile alert services, downloads to mobile devices or MMS messaging - Images must appear as still images and must not emulate match action video footage - No alteration is made to, and no text or image is superimposed over, any published image which: (a) intentionally obscures or removes a sponsor identification image; or (b) adds or overlays the commercial identification of any third party which is not officially associated with the FIFA World Cup) EPA/LAURENT GILLIERON EDITORIAL USE ONLY
epa06831890 Switzerland's midfielder Granit Xhaka (C) celebrates with his teammates after scoring the 1-1 equalizer during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group E preliminary round soccer match between Switzerland and Serbia in Kaliningrad, Russia, 22 June 2018. (RESTRICTIONS APPLY: Editorial Use Only, not used in association with any commercial entity - Images must not be used in any form of alert service or push service of any kind including via mobile alert services, downloads to mobile devices or MMS messaging - Images must appear as still images and must not emulate match action video footage - No alteration is made to, and no text or image is superimposed over, any published image which: (a) intentionally obscures or removes a sponsor identification image; or (b) adds or overlays the commercial identification of any third party which is not officially associated with the FIFA World Cup) EPA/LAURENT GILLIERON EDITORIAL USE ONLY

His father, an ethnic Albanian, was imprisoned in Serbia in the 1980s.

The world football governing body, FIFA, has clear and strict penalties against political symbols made during games. In 2005, Lazio player Paolo Di Canio was banned for one game and fine 7,000 euros for a Roman salute and in 2013, Giorgos Katidis was banned for life from the Greek squad after giving a Nazi salute during a game.

There has been no word from FIFA as yet as to whether they will take measures against Shaqiri and Xhaka.