Star Swiss players face sideline after political gestures

Aleksandar Mitrovic of Serbia is challened by Manuel Akanji of Switzerland during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Serbia and Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium

Under FIFA rules, this is deemed as provocative and political, and FIFA have since opened disciplinary proceedings against the duo.

However, a tense back-and-forth game saw Xhaka level the game in the second half and Shaqiri win it with a 90th-minute goal.

However, many fans noticed a symbol that both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri made to celebrate their respective goals.

Xhaka and Shaqiri, who scored Switzerland's goals in the victory, were charged on Saturday after they celebrated by putting their hands together to form a double-headed eagle similar to the one on the Albanian flag. However, its independence remains a contentious political issue, as it has not been recognized by an array of countries, including Serbia and Russian Federation. In 2014, a soccer match between the national teams of Serbia and Albania in Belgrade had to be abandoned after rioting provoked by the sudden appearance of a small drone, flying low over the stadium and trailing an Albanian nationalist banner.

The sport's governing body cleared them to continue playing.

Xhaka and Shaqiri, both articulate and multi-lingual, wear their hearts on their sleeve and have never been shy about their heritage.

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The player said in a post-match interview his celebration was "just emotion" but added he was not allowed to talk about politics.

"Sometimes they can't really see every situation, so I understand that they have to follow, in a way, the flow of the game and choose when to review it, choose when not". The countries now called Kosovo and Serbia have been in conflict for centuries, but tensions were especially high in the late 1980s under Yugoslavia president Slobodan Milosevic. "My celebration was for the people who have always supported me".

But potential anger at the provocative hand gestures was far outweighed by Serb indignation at Brych's failure to consult the VAR system.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo and plays with the Kosovan flag stitched into his boots.

Xhaka and Shaqiri are both ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia in war in 1999 and declared independence nearly a decade later but is not recognised by Serbia. "They [players] used to be Kosovo Albanian refugees", he said on Twitter.

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