The Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, has opened a bank account so that he can contribute to the fines picked up by Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Although the fines were relatively small compared to what a top-level footballer earns, Rama wanted to make a ‘symbolic contribution’.
Both Xhaka and Shaqiri were fined a total of SFr10,000 which equates to roughly £7,637. Lichtsteiner was fined SFr5,000.
Lichtsteiner, Xhaka and Shaqiri were facing the real possibility of a two-match ban, ruling them out of their final group game and the first knock-out round should the Swiss make it out of their group.
The PM’s bank account is reportedly called ‘Do not be afraid of the eagle’ and was opened at the Raiffeisen Bank, the largest bank in Albania.
A statement said the account was “to pay the absurd fines of FIFA”.
Rama also wrote on his Facebook page that the bank account represents a gesture of “thanks and gratitude towards the two players who gave millions of Albanians a sporting joy”.
Rama has been the PM of Albania since 2013. The Prime Minister, the most ‘powerful and influential’ position in Albanian politics, is appointed by the Albania President after a general election but must maintain the support of parliament to remain in power.
Rama belongs to the Socialist Party.
Kosovo fans are also crowdfunding the help the trio pay their fines. New York-based Kosovar, Rilind Reka, said he could not understand the decision of FIFA to fine the players.
He had passed his goal of raising SFr10,000 within 12 hours of opening the page.
“As an Albanian, of course, I support Xhaka, Shaqiri and Co.,” he said “But I’m also a fan of Switzerland. Your country has always helped us Albanians and Kosovars, now we can finally pay you back with these players. And since the Serbia match I’m a big fan of Stephan Lichtsteiner. He has shown that the Swiss are a team that holds together.
“It [the fundraiser] came spontaneously out of an emotion. I sat in my office when I heard about the Fifa verdict. I got upset because it can not be that gamblers collect a fine for a simple greeting gesture. That’s why I launched the crowdfunding campaign.
“Family members, friends, old acquaintances [called me] … It was unbelievable, everyone got wind in a short time. Even the Kosovo Ambassador in New York called me. She said that the Swiss Football Association would probably not accept the donations.
“Never in life [did I expect this to be so succesful]. I just shared the link on my Facebook profile and encouraged my friends to join. Then I did not notice anything because I was rushing from meeting room to meeting room. In the afternoon my phone suddenly started – and it does not stop ringing (laughs).”