Football: Switzerland-Belarus in Serbia, a geopolitically tense match
Kosovar-born Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates his goal against Serbia on June 22, 2018 during the World Cup in Russia. AP - Laurent Gillieron
Text by: RFI Follow
This is called a high-voltage match. Belarus-Switzerland, in qualifying for Euro 2024 football, is held in Serbia this Saturday, March 25 in the afternoon. High tension because Belarus has been ostracized from international sport since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. But not his football team. And this match in Serbia is anything but a gift for Switzerland.
With our correspondent in Geneva, Jérémie Lanche
The protests of the Members of the European Parliament did nothing about this. To date, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), the governing body for football in Europe, has not excluded the Belarusian national team from international competitions. The only penalty: the obligation to play on neutral ground. Hence the choice of the very pro-Russian Serbia for this Saturday's match.
Problem: Switzerland, Belarus' first opponent in Group I of the qualifiers, is still afraid to face Serbia or travel there, because several of its emblematic players are of Kosovar origin and Serbia does not recognize Kosovo. This gives each time electric encounters.
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During the 2018 World Cup and the Serbia-Switzerland match (1-2), Nati players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri – both of Kosovar origin – had mimed the Albanian double-headed eagle to celebrate their goals. In November, at the World Cup in Qatar, the Serbs had brought out a flag denying the existence of Kosovo in the locker room, before the Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka responded by paying a true-false tribute to a leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
To guard against a new controversy, Switzerland has officially requested that the match against Belarus be played elsewhere than in Serbia. But UEFA said nothing prevents the match from taking place in Belgrade.
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