Slavisa Kokeza, the head of Serbia’s FA, says that Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal celebrations during Switzerland’s win over his country “deserve to be condemned by the whole football world”.
Both players, who are of Kosovan descent, made a double-headed eagle sign with their hands after scoring, representative of the one on the Albanian flag, as Swizerland came from behind to win 2-1 in their World Cup Group E encounter.
The symbol is a controversial one, with Serbia not recognising Kosovo’s independence. Indeed, Shaqiri wore boots with both the Swiss flag and that of Kosovo, having been born in the latter country.
Xhaka’s parents are Albanian, but are of Serbian descent, and his father was a political prisoner in the 1980s, having been arrested in the former Yugoslavia.
Kokeza believes that the celebrations were deliberately provocative, and has called on FIFA to issue a serious punishment. FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the pair, who each play their club football in England – Shaqiri for Stoke City and Xhaka for Arsenal.
“It deserves to be condemned by the whole football world,” Kokeza told the BBC. “It was not the only provocation by the Swiss players. One sufficient detail was the football boots of one of their players – the boots had a flag of a non-existing country displayed on them.
“We expect FIFA to impose sanctions against the players who acted against rules of FIFA and fair play, as well as against the national association of the country they play for.”
The celebrations of Xhaka and Shaqiri were not the only controversy in the game, with striker Aleksandar Mitrovic denied what appeared to be a clear penalty in the second half.
Having opened the scoring, Mitrovic was wrestled to the ground by two defenders in the area as he attempted to jump for a header, but the referee opted against using VAR, refusing to award the spot kick.
Kokeza has gone as far as to suggest a FIFA conspiracy by coordinating the result beforehand, insinuating that there may have been some form of match fixing.
“We will send a protest to FIFA today,” Kokeza said. “I do not think this is only about VAR, but that the whole thing was directed by the people who appoint referees.”
“We all know too well that more than half of Switzerland’s population is German.
“Technical staff, players, people in Serbia, they are all disappointed and frustrated because of injustice some people at FIFA came up with.
“It is clear to Europe and the world that Serbia was brutally robbed. I do not expect FIFA to take action in order for this brutal robbery not to happen again, because, I repeat, it was all directed.”
Serbia could still progress to the knockout stages, but they will likely need to defeat Brazil in their final Group E encounter.