Shaqiri to miss Reds’ Belgrade UCL clash
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