June 26, 2018 / 4:29 PM / 3 months ago

No more politically provocative celebrations promise the Swiss

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (Reuters) - There will be no more politically charged celebrations from Switzerland at the World Cup, midfielder Valon Behrami said after team mates Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri escaped bans following last Friday’s victory over Serbia.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Switzerland Training - Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia - June 26, 2018 Switzerland's players and coach Vladimir Petkovic during training REUTERS/Carlos Barria

But that is only because Switzerland are unlikely to face Serbia again during the tournament in Russia.

“It won’t happen in the future again because there won’t be a game like this again. For us now it is case closed,” Behrami told a news conference on Tuesday as Switzerland prepared to take on Costa Rica in their last Group E match on Wednesday.

The Swiss need a draw at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium to advance to the next round.

Goalscorers Xhaka and Shaqiri were fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,000) each and warned by FIFA but escaped bans over their goal celebrations during Friday’s 2-1 victory.

The two players, who are ethnic Albanians and of Kosovar heritage, celebrated their strikes with a gesture which appeared to imitate the eagle displayed on Albania’s flag. There are seven players in the Swiss squad at the World Cup whose roots are in the former Yugoslavia, plus coach Vladimir Petkovic.

Serbia refuses to recognize the independence of its former province Kosovo, whose 1.8 million people are mostly ethnic Albanians. Kosovo broke away 10 years ago and Serbia opposed its ultimately successful bid to join FIFA.

FIFA, world soccer’s ruling body, and its European counterpart UEFA ensure that Serbia and Kosovo are kept apart when making draws for European competitions.

“Of course we are happy that no one is suspended, but it is a matter that goes a lot deeper and we should spend a little more time (discussing it) but now is not the right time,” said Behrami, who was born in Kosovo.

DIVIDED OPINIONS

Xhaka and Shaqiri’s behavior divided opinions in Switzerland with some politicians defending them and others saying they felt their goals were scored by Kosovo rather than Switzerland.

It also took the gloss off a thrilling last-gasp victory, which moved the Swiss closer to the next round. They came from a goal down to win.

“I think the team put on a great show of cohesion. When were 1-0 down we kept our calm and we kept the solidarity in the team. I think it’s an important trait to have.

“We always had the feeling that even though we were in a tough situation, let’s keep calm, keep playing our game and hopefully something positive would come out of it.

“Tomorrow we face another tough game and anything could happen. It is a really important match for us and we need to go out there and get it done,” Behrami added.

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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