Stephan Lichtsteiner has defended Granit Xhaka after the Arsenal man celebrated his Switzerland screamer with a double-headed eagle gesture aimed at the Serbian fans.
Speaking to the complex geopolitical situation in the region that has resulted in a number of players turning out for Switzerland because Kosovo was not recognised as a nation when they declared their international allegiance, Xhaka and Xherdan Shaquiri both used the gesture, which references the Albania flag when they scored.
Both players have Albanian heritage with Xhaka’s parents fleeing Kosovo before he was born. His father served three-and-a-half years in prison for protesting the communist central government in Belgrade.
Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, the former Serbian region that declared independence in 2008. His family fled the country for Switzerland.
Speaking after the match, Shaqiri said, “I think in football you have always emotions.
“You can see what I did and I think 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, meanwhile, took to his Snapchat account to say, “Serbia I broke your net, because you call me Granit Kosova.”
The Swiss captain, and Xhaka’s new Arsenal teammate, Lichtsteiner came to the defence of both players.
“They were provoking us for two or three days, so I think they beat each other,” he said. “They are not angels, but for me, it was a very hard war for many of our players’ parents, there were pressures and provocations so for me everything is fine.”
Granit Xhaka previously said that his father’s struggle for freedom in Kosovo spurred him on to be the best player possible.
Ragip Xhaka was 22-years-old when he was taken to jail, where he spent the next three-and-a-half years for participating in demonstrations against the communist central government in Belgrade. Seeking democracy and freedom at a time of conflict and confusion, he paid a high price for voicing his beliefs.
“It’s true that my father was imprisoned for three and a half years and it was because he stood up for what he believed in,” Xhaka told Swiss newspaper Blick in 2014. “It’s not a taboo subject in our household, we talk about it. After all, I want to know what happened.”
Granit Xhaka became only the third Swiss player to score at more than one World Cup when his equaliser hit the back of the net on Thursday night.