On the surface of it, Granit Xhaka’s match with Switzerland against Serbia on Friday went very well. Switzerland won the game, they progressed to the knockout stages, and Xhaka picked up the Man of the Match award.
But there was a bit of controversy around Xhaka’s showing. In one incident, the Arsenal midfielder ended up in a scrap with a few Serbia players, after trying to win a ball near the opposition goalline.
On another occasion, Xhaka made a rude gesture towards the Serbian bench and seemed to shout some words in their direction, leading to a bit of an uproar.
After the match, Xhaka caused a further stir by wearing his teammate Ardon Jashari’s shirt. Adem Jashari (not Ardon) was one of the founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and Xhaka donning the shirt could be seen as a reference to that.
Arsenal academy manager Per Mertesacker discussed the incidents afterwards, suggesting Xhaka was risking disciplinary actions.
“There were a bit too many emotions at play for the Swiss,” Mertesacker said. “There will probably also be an aftermath of what you have seen. There was a lot going on there.
“We also thought that he had matured through the lessons that this last game (in 2018) evoked. These are provocative gestures. There was probably also a nice verbal exchange. This then led to a pile-up.
“If the disciplinary committee looks at it, there may still be penalties afterwards.
“Xhaka has been through a lot. Obviously it made him the player he is. Nevertheless, one hopes that he and the team will not be harmed by such an action.
“Switzerland is in the round of 16 for the third time in a row. They want to get ahead now, go one step further. And for that, they also need Granit Xhaka.”
So far, there are no reports of any repercussions for Xhaka. The Arsenal midfielder has claimed that the Jashari shirt was simply a show of appreciation for his teammate, and nothing more.
“Ardon is part of our squad and we spend a lot of time together,” Xhaka said. “I told him if we won I would wear his shirt.
“There’s no political background to it whatsoever.”