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World Cup 2018: Switzerland's Granit Xhaka & Xherdan Shaqiri face bans over goal celebrations

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Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri

Switzerland pair Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri face two-match bans for their goal celebrations in their side’s World Cup victory over Serbia.

Football’s world governing body Fifa is investigating whether they broke rules on political and offensive messages.

Both players are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, where a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian population only ended with Nato military intervention in 1999.

They made ‘double eagle’ gestures after scoring, symbolising the Albanian flag.

The country’s flag carries the image of a double-headed eagle.

BBC Sport understands Fifa will examine if the gestures can be classed as provocation.

Under article 54 of the governing body’s disciplinary code, “anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches and sanctioned with a minimum fine of 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,800)”.

It is thought Fifa plans to call expert witnesses to explain how the goal celebrations could be classed as provocative.

It will be argued that the behaviour illustrates the Albanian nationalist-supported notion of a Greater Albania, which makes territorial claims on parts of Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.

If Fifa’s case is upheld, then the players would miss the last Group E game against Costa Rica and the last-16 match if Switzerland qualify.

On Saturday, Fifa confirmed its disciplinary committee had opened proceedings against Xhaka and Shaqiri, adding: “In relation to the same match, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Serbian FA for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans.

“Furthermore, a preliminary investigation has been opened against the coach of the Serbian national team, Mladen Krstajic, for alleged statements made in the aftermath of the said match.”

It is unclear what the investigation into Krstajic refers to, but in comments to Serbian reporters on Saturday, he said of match referee Felix Brych: “I wouldn’t give him either a yellow or red card, I would send him to The Hague. Then they could put him on trial, like they did to us.”

After the game, which his side won 2-1, Switzerland’s Bosnia-born manager Vladimir Petkovic was asked about the celebrations and said: “You should never mix football and politics. It’s important to be a fan, and to give respect.

“It was a wonderful atmosphere and that’s what support should be about.”

Arsenal midfielder Xhaka’s father spent three and a half years as a political prisoner in Yugoslavia, while Shaqiri was born in Yugoslavia before emigrating to Switzerland as a child.

Stoke City forward Shaqiri also sported a Kosovan flag, stitched onto his boots.

“It’s just emotion,” he said about his celebration. “I’m very happy to score this goal. It’s not more. I think we don’t have to speak about this now.”

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