Silence. Absolute. At any cost (see Fifa sanctions in this regard). To avoid controversy and tensions of which this football game has no need. Because it is enough to read the classification of group G to understand that Switzerland (3 points) – Serbia (1 point) is in fact a play-off-qualification. And because it is enough to scroll through the list of Swiss squads and chew a minimum of geopolitics to realize that any further slight could light the fuse and unleash a chain reaction, on and off the pitch, that is difficult to contain.
A match of images and symbols, this Switzerland-Serbia, as indeed it had already been four years ago, at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, when the Swiss won. Yes, but it was Granith Xhaka (now the heart of Arsenal’s midfield, but long-courted by Roma and Mourinho) and Xherdan Shaquiri (an opaque move to Inter in a career in which he collected the greatest satisfactions with Liverpool), whose Albanian origins are evident just by scrolling through their names in the official formation. Xhaka and Shaquiri celebrated those goals in their own way. Or rather how they were celebrating them maybe not in Bern or Geneva, but in Tirana or Pristina, the capital of Kosovo with an Albanian majority that Belgrade still claims as its own, despite the conflict that between 1998 and 1999 sanctioned its independence from the then Serbia-Montenegro (and Belgrade the buildings gutted by the bombs dropped by NATO fighters are still preserved, in memory of what happened…).
The two celebrated, miming with their hands the flight of the two-headed eagle, the same one that stands out – black, on a red background – in the center of the Albanian flag.
tensions and sanctions
In short, then the explicit reference to what happened on the (battle) field, in that war at the basis of the emigration of many Albanians and Kosovars to other countries, including Switzerland itself. Fifa intervened by imposing a fine on the two players: a sanction which in Belgrade they judged inadequate, while in Pristina and Tirana a subscription was opened in favor of Xhaka and Shaquiri themselves!
And that the climate is far from serene once again was demonstrated also and above all by the flag displayed in the Serbian locker room on November 24, after the opening match lost against Brazil, depicting Greater Serbia (therefore with Kosovo still annexed) and the eloquent writing “No surrender”, with an evident and disturbing football-political ambivalence (and Fifa has in the meantime opened an investigation into the episode).