Sunday 23 September 2018

Swiss ignoring 'time-wasters' to keep their eye on ball

Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri. Photo: Reuters
Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri. Photo: Reuters

Jack de Menezes

The importance of Xherdan Shaqiri's injury-time winner against Serbia has somewhat been lost in the days since Switzerland's crucial 2-1 victory as talk of Fifa bans, fines and pro-Albanian gestures dominated the headlines, but below the surface is the realisation that the Swiss are proving to be quite a handy proposition.

The celebrations of both Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka led to individual fines of 10,000 Swiss francs (€8,600) as they were deemed to have broken Fifa's regulations on political regulations by "provoking the general public during a match" by displaying a hand gesture resembling the Albanian 'double-headed eagle' flag.

The controversy fuelled speculation that they could receive the maximum punishments of a two-game ban each.

For players who are so invested in the matter, having grown up as children of Kosovan refugees and, in the case of Xhaka, political prisoners, this is nothing.

Fine after fine could arrive at their doorstep and yet some sort of gesture would likely be made in any match against Serbia.

In fact, a Go Fund Me page has already been set up to pay for the fines by supporters of the pro-Albania and pro-Kosovo cause, raising at time of writing more than €17,000 of the €21,000 total.

All of this has taken away from the fact that after a draw against Brazil and a resilient comeback victory against Serbia, Switzerland could go on and claim top spot in Group E. Whether or not that would be favourable depends on what Germany achieve in Group F, but it would be a major statement from the Swiss.

It appears that any further political statement throughout the tournament will be shelved, too, in order to let their football do the talking. "We have to think about the main thing, which is playing football," said midfielder Valon Behrami, another member of the squad with Kosovan roots who admitted that the issues of their history "goes a little bit deeper" that simply football.

"I know it's very interesting for people to read such things," said added Swiss manager Vladimir Petkovic. "But this (politics) should not be a time-waster for us. We really didn't talk about it. We carried on talking about football."

His side are proving to be a resilient bunch but Shaqiri and Xhaka bring some x-factor.

© Independent News Service

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