Kosovo and Albania collect money for fined Swiss players

Kosovo and Albania are collecting money to pay the Fifa fines of Switzerland players Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Stephan Lichtsteiner for celebrating goals with a pro-Kosovo double eagle gesture in their World Cup win over Serbia.

Kosovo and Albania collect money for fined Swiss players
Swiss forward Xherdan Shaqiri takes part in a training session at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Arsenal midfielder Xhaka and Stoke City's Shaqiri trace their roots to Kosovo, a former Serbian province with an ethnic Albanian majority where thousands were killed during a 1998-1999 conflict between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian guerillas.

The double eagle symbol represents the Albanian flag and is viewed as a symbol of defiance in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 in a move that Serbia still refuses to recognise.

The players' celebrations in the 2-1 win in Kaliningrad on Friday caused outrage in Serbia.

Read also: Swiss stir up controversy with 'double eagle' goal celebrations

FIFA, whose rules prohibit political symbols in stadiums, fined Xhaka and Shaqiri 10,000 Swiss francs (8,700 euros, $10,000) each and Lichtsteiner 5,000 Swiss francs.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Tuesday opened a bank account to enable his fellow countrymen to help pay the fines of Xhaka and Shaqiri, which he labelled “absurd”.

The account named “Don't be afraid of the eagle” is a “gesture of gratitude to the two sportsmen” he said on Facebook, voicing regret over misinterpretation of what he described as a sign of spontaneous joy.

A total of $25,614 had been collected as of 8.15am on Wednesday after an online fund was launched in Kosovo.

A screen grab of the campaign home page on the gofundme site.

Kosovo Commerce and Industry Minister Bajram Hasani said he had donated €1,500 euros, which is his monthly salary.

“They (the players) were punished only because they did not forget their roots, they did not forget where they came from,” Hasani said, quoted by local media.

“Money cannot buy the joy that Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri brought us by celebrating with the eagle sign their goals during the Switzerland-Serbia match.”

Switzerland and Serbia can both still qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup.

The Swiss face Costa Rica on Wednesday, when Serbia play Brazil.


‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

A Swiss super fan who has shot to fame after images of him watching Switzerland’s win over France went viral told the media he was unaware of his viral fame - but that he was overwhelmed with the world’s attention.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame
Image: Twitter.

Like most Swiss football fans, Luca Loutenbach’s Monday evening – highlighted by a surprise upset win over the current World Champions and tournament favourite France – went about as well as you could have expected. 

But while his side were putting on the pressure through late goals to push the game into extra time, Loutenbach’s image was being shared across the world. 

Two pictures of Loutenbach, juxtaposed from before and after Switzerland scored an equaliser in the 90th minute to send the game to extra time, were widely shared. 

The images were even shared by Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London, who congratulated Switzerland and said the images summed up the beauty of football. 

On Tuesday, Loutenbach spoke with Swiss tabloid Blick to tell the story. He said he had no idea about the images as his phone had no reception in Romania – and only found out after the game. 

“I didn’t have a network during the game. But some fans around me were connected to the internet and quickly realized what was happening. What an incredible buzz!” said the man from the canton of Jura. 

While Switzerland have made it further than they have in their history in the tournament, Loutenbach is far from a bandwagon fan. He told Blick he’s seen around 50 national team games before. 

“It’s the most beautiful day in the history of Swiss football, let’s not be afraid of saying it. It is the accomplishment of the immense work of the ASF (Federation), of (coach) Petkovic and of the whole team” he said.