Switzerland awaits FIFA judgment on 'provocative' gestures
MOSCOW (AP) — Despite goal celebrations seen as inflaming political tensions with Serbia, the head of Switzerland's soccer federation said Sunday he doesn't expect FIFA to suspend his players.
FIFA has added a third Swiss player — captain Stephan Lichtsteiner — to an investigation of both scorers in a 2-1 win who made hand gestures of a two-headed eagle that is an Albanian national symbol. Lichtsteiner also made the gesture during the match.
Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri have ethnic Albanian heritage linked to Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn't recognize that independence.
A strict reading of FIFA's rules suggests the key trio in Switzerland's starting lineup could be ruled out until the quarterfinals.
"Anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches," the FIFA disciplinary code states.
FIFA's disciplinary panel could impose only a fine and warning before Switzerland plays Costa Rica on Wednesday. The Swiss need a draw to reach the round of 16.
"I don't have any concerns," Swiss soccer federation president Peter Gillieron said Sunday in an interview published by Swiss news website "20 Minutes."
Gillieron said he expected a quick decision from FIFA's judicial body, and the country could be proud of a team which has four points from two games.
"It may be annoying but we have to accept it," Gillieron said of the case. "We have to be aware that now football is just a priority."
Both the Switzerland and Serbia teams played down any political factors before the game last Friday. Shaqiri had posted a photograph on Instagram of his playing boots, one with a Switzerland flag on the heel and the other with a Kosovo flag.
However, a tense back-and-forth game saw Xhaka level the game in the second half and Shaqiri win it with a 90th-minute goal. Both players made the eagle symbol before running to celebrate with teammates in front of Swiss fans in the Kaliningrad stadium.
FIFA rules prohibit political gestures by players or fans, and let the disciplinary panel act on "serious infringements which have escaped the match officials' attention."
Xhaka, Shaqiri and Lichtsteiner would likely have been shown a yellow card at the time for their celebrations.
In further fallout from the Group E game, FIFA said Sunday it opened disciplinary cases against Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic and federation president Slavisa Kokeza for comments made after the game.
Serbia's federation said if filed an official complaint, including videos of game action, with the sport's governing body alleging "biased officiating" by German referee Felix Brych.