During the Serbia vs Switzerland match something spectacular happened. Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, 2 native Albanians, combined to defeat Serbia, the same nation that enacted genocide on their home country, and that made their families into refugees. No matter how much we preach international brotherhood; ethnicity & cultural pride will always play an integral role in football.
Shaqiri’s family fled to Switzerland when he was young; Xhaka’s before he was born. Both found solace in Switzerland, where they began their careers, but it didn’t change the fact that “Xhaka” and “Shaqiri,” unlike “Zuber” or “Lichsteiner,” are not Swiss, but Albanian names. You can change your passport, but you can never change your blood.
Stop for a second, and imagine the exhilaration of scoring a goal for your country in the World Cup.
Now, imagine if that goal was against a country that imprisoned your father for protesting, a country that murdered thousands of your own people.
The exhilaration goes up 200%. And that was evident when both Xhaka & Shaqiri celebrated with the Albanian eagle gesture in front of the whole world despite wearing the Swiss jersey(in the pic). You cannot absolve a country of guilt simply by saying “the players didn’t carry out the genocide.” Football isn’t played in a vaccum. You cannot wipe out the stains of ethnic cleansing & violent crackdowns. You cannot ignore the overbearing role that politics plays in football.
It’s a tension that still continues to this day.
As recent as in 2014, during a Euro 2016 qualifying match, Serbian fans chanted, “Ubij, ubij, Šiptara,” or “Kill the Albanians.” They threw flares onto the pitch, and attacked Albanian players, as the flames of nationalism burned bright.
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