Granit Xhaka has found himself in the spotlight after he was pictured wearing a potentially controversial shirt following Switzerland’s World Cup win over Serbia.
The Arsenal midfielder put in a man of the match display on the night as the Swiss claimed a 3-2 victory to progress to the round of 16 alongside Brazil from Group G. After the match though, Xhaka was spotted wearing a shirt with the name “Jashari” on the back which has been the subject of some controversy.
Jashari is the surname of Xhaka’s fellow Swiss squad member Ardon Jashari, but it is also that of Adem Jashari, founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army and a symbol of Kosovar independence. Xhaka is of ethnic Albanian heritage linked to Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 but has not been recognised by Serbia. The 30-year-old midfielder has claimed that the gesture was not in any way political however.
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“There’s no political background to it whatsoever,” Xhaka said after the game. “Ardon is part of our squad and we spend a lot of time together. I told him if we won I would wear his shirt.”
It is not the only controversial incident Xhaka was involved in on the night. The Arsenal midfielder appeared to make a gesture towards the Serbian bench in which he held his crotch. It is thought that this was specifically in the direction of Serbian backup goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic who has been at the centre of stories surrounding his personal life this week.
Xhaka was also involved in a melee late on in the match where he clashed with Aleksandar Mitrovic, Serbian defender Nikola Milenkovic and goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. Despite this, Swiss coach Murat Yakin was keen to defend the actions of his captain on the night.
“What I saw was a Granit Xhaka who was focused fully on football and performed very well,” Yakin said. “I saw the players from Serbia crossing the line, and others trying to calm them down. It was a normal exchange.”
This is not the first time Xhaka has been at the centre of controversy in Swiss matches with Serbia. During their group stage clash at the last World Cup in 2018 he and Xherdan Shaqiri were fined after crossing their hands to mimic the double-headed eagle displayed on the Albanian flag. The incident ultimately saw both players were fined 10,000 Swiss francs (£8,700) for the actions which FIFA cited it as ‘unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play’.
An incident-packed game also saw an announcement made over the public address system at Stadium 974 calling for fans to refrain from discriminatory songs or gestures. football.london has approached FIFA to see if they are investigating the incidents, but at time of writing they are yet to comment.