Saturday 23 June 2018

Who is playing for Kosovo?

We are not sports fan but was surprised to see all this controversy about Swiss footballers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri who have risked inflaming political tensions in the Balkans after they used an Albanian nationalist symbol to celebrate their goals against Serbia in a 2-1 Group E victory in Kaliningrad.

The pair, who both have ethnic Albanian heritage but grew up in Switzerland, turned Friday night’s match around after Serbia had taken the lead through Aleksandar Mitrovic early in the first half.

Both put their open hands together with their thumbs locked and fingers outstretched to make what looks like the double-headed eagle displayed on Albania’s national flag. The thumbs represent the heads of the two eagles, while the fingers look like the feathers.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense. Xhaka’s parents are originally from Kosovo and they are of Albanian heritage. The Arsenal midfielder’s father was imprisoned in the former Yugoslavia for campaigning in favour of Kosovan independence.

So what exactly happened in Kosovo?

During the period between March 24, 1999 to June 19, 1999, approximately 10,000 people were killed, with the vast majority of the victims being Kosovar Albanians killed by FRY forces. Approximately 863,000 civilians sought or were forced into refuge outside Kosovo and an additional 590,000 were internally displaced. There is also evidence of widespread rape and torture, as well as looting, pillaging and extortion.

Read all about Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims in Kosovo here.

Read all about Islam and Muslims in Kosovo here.

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