James Montague Profile picture
Jun 22, 2018 50 tweets 14 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Well, what a game that was. A couple of thoughts. Serbia were brilliant for 60 minutes. Switzerland much better in the second half but still made chances even when playing badly. But everyone will remember the eagle hand gesture.
In case you don't know, it isn't just a Kosovo thing. All ethnic Albanians make that sign as sign of pride, whether in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia or in the wider diaspora.
It will be scene as extremely provocative by Serbs, who will wonder why they have been under the microscope for chants and flags and yet two players can make this gesture in a game. Albanians will argue that it is cultural, rather than political.
Before Xhaka's equalizer, Switzerland's Kosovar players were singled out and booed. But the worst was for Shaqiri as he is perhaps the most open about his Kosovo roots. Unlike Xhaka, he was born in Kosovo and is a war refugee.
You could argue Shaqiri shouldn't have done it. Also, it was a reaction to his treatment. He played like a man possessed because of it. Either way, on the biggest stage of all he has now taken the Albanian eagle hand sign global.
In the post match press conference Shaqiri said it was pure emotion. But let's not detract from one important point. This was a fabulous game of football, probably the best of the World Cup so far. Both teams deserve to get out of this group...
This story will run and run. Swiss coach Petkovic maintains that sport and politics should be separate but that's clearly not the case here. A couple of exasperated journalists asked him how he squared that circle when it was very clearly a gesture that could incite.
But it can't be forgotten, I think, just how bad the reception was for the Swiss Kosovar players. I'm pretty sure that had an influence on the reaction of both players to the goals.
A twist. Coach Petkovic and the Swiss FA agreed that the Eagle hand gesture would NOT be used for Swiss national team games back in 2014. Anti-immigration feeling was on the rise and they thought it wouldn't help. Seems that held until tonight... m.20min.ch/sport/fussball…
The talk before the game was of Xherdan Shaqiri's boots. The talk after was of his hands. The story of a wild night in Kaliningrad as Switzerland beat Serbia. It was possibly the best match of the World Cup so far. It was certainly its most political nytimes.com/2018/06/22/spo…
To add a bit more context, I met Xhaka, Behrami and Shaqiri back in 2012. Back then the issue was mainly with the Swiss press, who seemed unhappy that their players had perceived split loyalties. Also that any new Kosovo team, if it existed, would steal their best players.
The Swiss tabloid Blic, I believe, ran a headline "Fear of Kosovo" over the issue. Shaqiri, as possibly the best player (certainly the most dynamic, he was at Bayern at the time) got the most stick. Even then he wore flags on his boots. 3 in fact: Switzerland, Kosovo & Albania.
Switzerland got Albania in 2014 World Cup qualification & the majority of the players on the pitch had roots in Kosovo, which today is linguistically & ethnically Albanian (with a small Serbian minority). For many Serbians Kosovo is still an integral part of its history.
In Belgrade the one piece of graffiti you'll see above all else is 1389. The year of the Battle of Kosovo, which saw the Ottomans defeat Serbia's princes and usher in nearly five centuries of rule. Orthodox churches and monasteries can be found all over Kosovo.
Back to 2012, there was no Kosovo NT so players played for the country where they arrived as immigrants or refugees. Or Albania which many, like Kosovo born captain at the time Lorik Cana, thought should be a home for all ethnic Albanian players.
Before that game in 2012 I met up with Fadil Vokrri the president of the Kosovo FA & his assistant Eroll. Fadil was Kosovo's greatest player. Once of Partizan Belgrade. They had a plan. A petition that the Swiss Kosovo players would sign to support FIFA recognition for Kosovo.
So we snuck into the Swiss hotel. The players were waiting. They all signed the petition but each had a thoughtful take. Xhaka was the youngest & most outspoken. Behrami, the oldest, said he supported it but would never switch teams. He was the past. This was for the future.
Shaqiri was somewhere in between. Evidently he had strong family ties to, & memories of, Kosovo. But he was vocally & emotionally proud of Switzerland, of the refuge and opportunities it gave him and his family. Any immigrant, or children of immigrants will recognise that.
Anyway, here's a story I wrote about that mad little trip at the time. I also write about the issue at length in my book Thirty One Nil nyti.ms/OFznYR
Kosovo was recognised by FIFA and UEFA in 2016. None of the major Swiss players switched (they couldn't if they'd played in Euro 2016). And they started qualification for Russia 2018. Here's the full story (spoiler, they didn't make it) thelab.bleacherreport.com/the-dawn-of-ko…
Sadly, Fadil Vokrri - the Kosovo FA president who I'd met in a diner and gone on that crazy trip to the Swiss hotel - didn't get to see another World Cup. He died of a heart attack a few weeks ago. It was announced that Kosovo's new national stadium will be named after him.
The fall out from yesterday's eaglegate. #srb coach says the clear penalty that should have been awarded by VAR (and it was as clear a penalty as you could see) v #SUI was an example of selective justice against Serbs, like at The Hague.
It is not a verified Instagram account, but other verified footballers have replied to other posts, including Rafhina (the two played with each other at Schalke)
There is a lot of misinformation out there so be careful. One thing I saw brought up by @Petrit. There was NOT as far as I can tell ANY chants about killing Albanians. Others monitoring the match confirmed the same.
Well, FIFA just released a statement. They've opened an investigation into Shaqiri & Xhaka's hand gestures. & into the Serbian fans for offensive banners/chants. AND the Serbian coach for his post match comments (presumably when he compared VAR to The Hague's war crimes tribunal)
Actually, just to be clear, it seems to be over "crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans" rather than chants....
Anyway, here's the statement h/t @tariqpanja
More fallout from #eaglehandsgate. Serbian FA president blasts FIFA and accuses FIFA of "directing" officials against it. Also calls Kosovo a "non existent country." More charge incoming, I'm guessing.... bbc.co.uk/sport/amp/foot…
And how about this for timing? The Brussels dialogue - aimed at attempting to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo - restarts today. I wonder whether Vucic brings it up with Thaci?

Xhaka & Shaqiri face two match bans each for the double eagle hand sign. FIFA will employ experts to see if it is a nationalist and provocative symbol. If that's true, their judgment is going to have real world consequences far outside football

Imagine: FIFA rules that it IS an ethnic nationalist symbol and a provocation? That will go down like a cup of cold sick in some parts of the Balkans. If they don't? It's fair game & Serbs will see proof of institutional bias.
Context of course will be everything. The booing, the players' histories, the fact that the Swiss national team agreed players would not make the hand gesture back in 2014. Either way, Switzerland face losing their two best players for two games.
I suspect Serbia coach Krstajić is also in a lot of trouble. He doubled down on his Insta post comparing VAR's uneven justice to perceived Serbian persecution at The Hague. On ref Felix Brych: "I would send him to The Hague. To judge him. As he judged us"

H/T to @NedadMemic for that last video. Also, the issue of flags and banners with offensive messages by Serbian fans. There has already been a 10k Swiss Franc fine. So the second offence will be treated harsher. Those Mladic hoodies, I suspect, may not go down well...
Another update on #eaglehandsgate. Looks like the head of the Serbian FA will be investigated for comments he made to @richard_conway bbc.com/sport/football…
And Swiss captain Stephan Lichtsteiner -- who's on his way Arsenal -- will also be investigated. He made the eagle symbol too. He has no Albanian family!
Also, do read this excellent feature by @slandr for @ForeignPolicy. It's a great run down of events and history from a Serbian perspective foreignpolicy.com/2018/06/24/for…
Chechnya, Salah, eagles, three fingers & Kosovo. A look at the political controversies of the past few days at the World Cup from me, @tariqpanja & @RorySmith. Includes the analysis of @suboticjelena

ICYMI The talk before the game was of Xherdan Shaqiri's boots. The talk after was of his hands. The story of a wild night in Kaliningrad as Switzerland beat Serbia. It was possibly the best match of the World Cup so far. It was certainly its most political nytimes.com/2018/06/22/spo…
FIFA just made a ruling in #eaglehandsgate. Everyone gets fines basically. No bans for the Swiss players...
Here's the FIFA ruling. They breached rules on sporting conduct, not political messaging...
Big fine for offensive Serbian banners (second offense) and The Serbian FA chief's interview with @richard_conway cost him 5000 Swiss Francs. Serbia's coach fined the same for his VAR/referee/Hague war crimes tribunal comments....
This ruling will not go down well with the Serbian FA.

Fines for #sui players: 25,000 francs.

Fines for #srb FA: 64,000 francs.
I'm not sure Serbia fans will be angry as such. More resigned as they believe they will never get fair justice in these scenarios. But breaking this down, most of the fine is for offensive banners. It's a second offense, after being fined 10,000 francs for the same v Costa Rica.
I didn't see any "Kosovo je Srbje" flags inside. Lots outside. But obviously others got in. The hoodies with Ratko Mladic probably didn't help. I suspect it could have been a bigger fine.
And the Serbian FA chief. If you live in the Balkans you are used to this kind of rhetoric. But what he was saying, essentially, was that FIFA conspired with the referee to make sure Serbia lost. Which in the cold light of day is sounds nuts. I'm surprised his fine isn't bigger.
And Krstajic? He was speaking to a home audience but war crimes tribunal comments, even tongue in cheek, are in poor taste. The whole aftermath has been handled very badly.
Saying all that, FIFA swerved it and didn't male a ruling on the political nature or otherwise on the hands gesture. I'm pretty sure FIFA isn't the right body to be making that find of definition. BUT...
Even with the booing and what not, the players knew this would provoke a reaction. It could have ended very badly indeed. I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd got a one game ban. Xhaka and Shaqiri especially can count themselves very lucky.
*numerous typo's. Typing on the fly.

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