ST PETERSBURG: Switzerland’s footballers found themselves caught up a politican row after two of their players – Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri¬† –¬†celebrated World Cup victory over Serbia with ‘double eagle’ hand celebrations writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The gesture is considered a nationalist symbol representing the double headed eagle on Albania’s national flag and was considered provocative in Belgrade because of the Kosovo issue.

Some Serb fans had booed the Swiss players with Kosovar/Albanian family backgrounds before and during the game.

Media outlets in both Serbia and Switzerland considered the gestures as having betrayed a lack of political responsibility.

Shaqiri later sought to downplay his celebration, saying: “It’s just emotion. I’m very happy to score this goal. It’s not more. I think we don’t have to speak about this now.”

Xhaka and Shaqiri’s families are from Kosovo, where a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian population only ended with Nato military intervention in 1999.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo and his family fled to Switzerland as refugees. Xhaka’s father spent three-and-a-half years as a political prisoner in the former Yugoslavia over his support for Kosovan independence.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia has refused to recognise it.

Shaqiri wears boots displaying the Swiss flag on one heel and the Kosovan flag on the other which hadprompted Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic to say: “If he loves Kosovo so much and decides to flaunt the flag, why did he refuse a chance to play for their team?”

Swiss manager Vladimir Petkovic – born in Bosnia – said: “You should never mix football and politics.” Serbia manager Mladen Krstajic – also from Bosnia – refused to comment.

State broadcaster RTS focused instead on a complaint by the Serbian football association over the referee’s failure to award a penalty when Mitrovic was apparently wrestled to the ground by two Swiss players.

RTS said the Serbian football association had complained to world governing body FIFA about Shaqiri’s boots, the goal celebrations and Albanian flags in the stands.

In 2014 a match between the Balkan nations was abandoned after a drone carrying an Albanian flag sparked a brawl. Ordinary Albanian fans had been banned from attending the game.

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