Shaqiri to miss Reds’ Bel­grade UCL clash

Shanghai Daily - - SPORTS - SOC­CER (Agen­cies)

POL­I­TICS will keep Liver­pool for­ward Xher­dan Shaqiri from mak­ing the trip to face Red Star Bel­grade in the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League, nearly five months af­ter the Switzer­land for­ward made a na­tion­al­ist hand ges­ture while cel­e­brat­ing a goal against Ser­bia at the World Cup.

Shaqiri, who is Swiss but was born in Kosovo, was left off Liver­pool’s squad by man­ager Juer­gen Klopp yes­ter­day be­cause the team fears a harsh re­cep­tion in Ser­bia dur­ing to­day’s match.

“It’s a sit­u­a­tion where we will go to the fan­tas­tic city of Bel­grade as a foot­ball team to play foot­ball,” Klopp said.

“We have heard and read the spec­u­la­tion and talk about what kind of re­cep­tion Shaq would re­ceive and al­though we have no idea what would hap­pen, we want to go there and be fo­cused 100 per­cent on foot­ball and not have to think about any­thing else, that’s all.”

Shaqiri plays for Switzer­land’s na­tional team but has roots in Kosovo, a for­mer Ser­bian prov­ince that de­clared in­de­pen­dence in 2008, which Ser­bia has re­fused to rec­og­nize.

At the World Cup in Rus­sia, both Shaqiri and Switzer­land team­mate Granit Xhaka, who plays for fel­low English Premier League side Arse­nal, cel­e­brated goals against Ser­bia by us­ing their hands to make a na­tion­al­ist ea­gle sym­bol of their eth­nic Al­ba­nian her­itage.

FIFA fined the duo 10,000 Swiss francs (US$9,951) each for the ges­ture though Shaqiri de­nied his cel­e­bra­tion had po­lit­i­cal over­tones.

In a story posted on Liver­pool’s web­site, Klopp didn’t men­tion the hand ges­ture. “We are Liver­pool FC, a big club, a foot­ball team but we don’t have any mes­sage fur­ther than that. We have no po­lit­i­cal mes­sage, ab­so­lutely not,” the Ger­man said. “We are keen to be re­spect­ful and keen to avoid any dis­trac­tions that would take fo­cus away from a 90minute-plus con­test that is im­por­tant for foot­ball and only foot­ball.”

Klopp said Shaqiri had ac­cepted the de­ci­sion.

“(He) un­der­stands this,” the man­ager said. “Shaq is our player, we love him, and he will play for us a lot of times, but not on Tues­day.”

Liver­pool beat Red Star 4-0 at An­field, when Shaqiri started, in a fix­ture be­tween the sides last month to move top of Group C on six points. Red Star has one point af­ter three matches in a pool that also in­cludes Paris Saint-Ger­main and Napoli, which meet in the other group fix­ture in Naples to­day. The Serie A gi­ant Napoli has five points while the French Ligue 1 cham­pion PSG has four.

Liver­pool’s Xher­dan Shaqiri

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