The taunts hurled Xherdan Shaqiri’s way by a section of the traveling fans in Liverpool’s 4-0 Champions League victory over the visiting Red Star Belgrade was to be expected. The Swiss international, who is of Albanian-Kosovar heritage, was fined £7,600 by FIFA this past summer for celebrating World Cup goals against Serbia by tauntingly making the Albanian Eagle symbol with his hands and fans from the Serbian capital’s club fans had not forgotten.
The symbol has roots in the political tensions due to Serbia’s refusal to recognize the Albanian-majority nation of Kosovo since the latter declared independence in 2008.
With the Serbian giants visiting Anfield, and with Shaqiri’s World Cup provocation fresh in mind, the atmosphere was always going to be tense for the wrong reasons, with the reception expected to be even more fractious in the reverse fixture in Belgrade on November 6.
Shaqiri, whose own parents fled Kosovo as refugees, insists that everything will go smoothly when the time comes:
“I have no concerns—I just go there to play a football game,” the 27-year-old said. “It is not about politics, it is about football. I worry about nothing and go to play.
“Yes, [the Red Star fans] will jeer me but I had this already at the World Cup so I know I can handle this no problem.”
The ex-Bayern Munich player was the star man this time out, prying the visitors open in crafting Roberto Firmino’s opening goal before delightfully finding Mohamed Salah to make it 2-0 with an assist that Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp described as “genius.”
“It is a game where I am trying my best to give him good performances. I need to try to keep going. It is a long season and we want to be successful,” Shaqiri continued.
“But I have the quality and vision to give good passes and you can see that I wanted to give another good performance.
“I am enjoying the football here and you can see that on the pitch. The most important thing is to win as a team and today was brilliant from everyone.”