Switzerland duo Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri have offered their apologies for celebrating their World Cup goals against Serbia with double-headed eagle salutes in reference to the Albanian flag, a nod to their roots.
The goals came in a 2-1 win for Switzerland when Arsenal midfielder Xhaka, born in Switzerland to ethnic Albanian parents originally from Serbia, netted an equalizer and wheeled away to make the winged salute.
Further controversy ensued when teammate and Liverpool winger Shaqiri, himself a Kosovar-Albanian, slotted home a stoppage time winner and darted off to mark the goal with the same eagle celebration.
The double-headed eagle is the symbol of the Albanian flag, and has a deeper connection with Albanian independence. The pair were fined CHF 10,000 (US$ 10,000) for their actions by FIFA.
In a press conference on Tuesday ahead of Switzerland’s clashes with Iceland and England, Xhaka said: “I’m sorry for what happened I would be stupid if I did it again.”
Shaqiri then offered his apologies with the explanation: “It’s all about the excitement…People could give different interpretations to my jubilation. If this gesture could hurt the sensitivity of the people who watched the game… I’m sorry.”
On Wednesday, former Swiss international Stephane Henchoz told national press that Xhaka did not deserve the Swiss captaincy in the event of current skipper Stephan Lichtsteiner’s retirement, as he does not represent “traditional” Switzerland.