A trip to the Rajko Mitic Stadium of Red Star Belgrade is one of the most uncomfortable tasks of a football professional. The audience is considered fanatical, several times the club has been prosecuted for racist chants of his appendix. Fans of Belgrade would probably only have a mild smile for the debate about pyrotechnics, which was a big fuss in Germany. It takes strong nerves to survive here.
Nervous debility is certainly not Xherdan Shaqiri's problem, but his club, Liverpool FC, did not take him on a trip to the Champions League match in Belgrade on Tuesday. Jürgen Klopp cites as justification that the club wants to avoid any distraction and focus on the game. That would have been difficult with Shaqiri, he would have become the central figure of the event – and not in the positive.
The double-headed eagle
The former Bayern professional, who plays for the Swiss national team, has Albanian parents and comes from Kosovo. The region declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize independence. At the World Cup in Russia Shaqiri celebrated his goal against Serbia by forming with his hands the double eagle, the symbol of Albania and a provocation against the Serbs. During the game at Red Star, he would have expected particularly violent hostilities, even tumults would have been possible.
On the one hand, therefore, it is a sensible decision to leave it at home. On the other hand, Liverpool's decision is also depressing because he is capitulating to nationalist delusion. Of course, it is not permissible to make people with a complicated history of origin regulations on identity issues. It is Shaqiri's right to feel not only Swiss, but also Kosovars or Albanians. It becomes problematic when the rejection of others arises from one's own identity. So: If the Serbian fans see Shaqiri because of its origin as an enemy image and he in turn instrumentalized it as a triumphal gesture.
In football, as elsewhere in life, it should not matter where someone comes from. The fact that Shaqiri stays away from the game in Belgrade shows that the origin is just a factor after all. In addition, the case could have a problematic role model function. In the future, fans could threaten any opposing player with a hostile reception – and hope that his club will leave him at home.