Soccer News: Xhaka in a T-shirt dispute amid Switzerland’s promotion

    Granit Xhaka found himself at the center of another controversy involving Serbia after wearing a jersey with “Jashari” printed on the back following Switzerland’s 3-2 victory in Doha on Friday.

    Xhaka provided the man of the match as the Swiss hit back 2-1 to finish second in Group G and advance to the Round of 16 clash with Portugal on Tuesday.

    But his actions after the final whistle could attract the attention of FIFA.

    In the post-match celebrations, Xhaka wore a jersey with the name “Jashari”. Asked later what this meant, the Arsenal midfielder stated that it was for Swiss international Ardon Yashari.

    However, the name has another meaning: Adem Jashari, the late founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a separatist group of Kosovo Albanians fighting for independence from the former Yugoslavia.

    Xhaka is of ethnic Albanian descent with ties to Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 but has not been recognized by Serbia.

    Asked later about the shirt, Xhaka said: “It has no political undertones.

    “Ardon is part of our team and we spend a lot of time together. I told him that if we win, I will wear his shirt.”

    Xhaka was a key figure throughout the fierce battle. He also provoked a melee in the second half when the Serbian bench invaded the pitch with a rude gesture, allegedly towards substitute goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, whose personal life has been the subject of speculation this week.

    Switzerland boss Murat Yakin said he would “wait and see” if action was taken against Xhaka.

    “We will enjoy this moment, it cost us a lot of emotion and energy. It was a fair match,” he said.

    “Before the game, a lot of people were talking about the situation, but we were able to rise to the challenge.

    “We are happy to move on. Everything else is speculation and we’ll wait and see.”

    Regarding the Rajkovic incident, Yakin added: “What I saw was Granit Xhaka, who was completely focused on football and performed very well. I saw players from Serbia cross the line, others try to calm them down. It was a normal exchange.”

    This is not the first time that Xhaka has been embroiled in a controversy against Serbia. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he and Xherdan Shaqiri were penalized for crossing their arms to represent the eagle on the Albanian flag in Switzerland’s 2-1 victory.

    Shaqiri also played a part in Switzerland’s victory here, scoring the first goal at the 974 Stadium, but looked annoyed at being taken off the field in the 69th minute.

    “Nobody likes to be replaced,” Yakin said. “Every player wants to play to the end, but protecting the players is my responsibility. He scored his goal and gave a great assist.

    “The substitutes brought a lot of energy and I think they did a good job.”

    Hot spots overshadowed a great game in which the composure of the Swiss at key moments was decisive.

    Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic praised his players but lamented the fact that many of them struggled to keep fit throughout their time in Qatar. He also stated that he was not going to resign.

    He said: “We are unhappy with the result, but given the challenges we faced upon arriving here and the injuries we had to contend with, we couldn’t handle it.

    “The guys fought, but at this level it’s not enough.

    “As for my future, in March we start qualifying for the European Championship, and we have a great desire to qualify.”

    Stojković claimed he did not hear any of the chants that prompted an announcement over the public address system asking fans to refrain from discriminatory songs or gestures believed to come from sections housing Serbian supporters.

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