Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's second goal.
Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's second goal.

Secret meaning of hand signals by Swiss players

ALBANIA'S national flag was at the centre of Switzerland's 2-1 victory over Serbia on Saturday morning at the World Cup.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage.

Both players put their open hands together with their thumbs locked and fingers outstretched to make what looked like the double-headed eagle displayed on Albania's flag.

The thumbs represent the heads of the two eagles, and the fingers look like the feathers.

"I think about this, I don't want to speak," said Shaqiri, who also took off his shirt after scoring.

"In football, you have always emotions. You can see what I did, and it's just emotion, and I'm just happy to have scored the goal. I did it, and we don't have to speak about this."

The gesture is likely to inflame tensions among Serb nationalists and ethnic Albanians.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn't recognise Kosovo's independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

Xhaka's parents are originally from Kosovo and are of Albanian heritage. His brother plays for Albania's national team.

Granit Xhaka started the trend.
Granit Xhaka started the trend.

Years of war in the Balkans sent many families to western European countries, including Switzerland. The Swiss have dozens of ethnic Albanians in their national football program.

Serbia's players did not react to the eagle gestures at Kaliningrad Stadium. 

"I don't have any comments," Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic said.

"I don't deal with these things. I am a man of sports, and this is what I'm going to stay being."

In the tournament's first come-from-behind victory, Xhaka made it 1-1 in the 52nd minute with a powerful shot through a crowded penalty area. Shaqiri added the other in injury time after running past the Serbian defence.

Their celebrations were emotional and could overshadow Switzerland's victory.

Switzerland's Bosnian-born coach Vladimir Petkovic said: "You should never mix politics and football. You should always show respect.

"It's a wonderful atmosphere and a positive experience and that's what football should be about."

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored for Serbia with a header in the fifth minute.

The win puts Switzerland into second place in Group E with four points, the same as Brazil.

The Swiss will advance to the round of 16 if they beat Costa Rica on Wednesday in Nizhny Novgorod. Serbia will face Brazil in Moscow at the same time.

Serbia had chances to score more before half-time. Mitrovic came close in the 19th minute when he controlled a cross from Branislav Ivanovic on his chest and sent a bicycle kick over the bar.

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