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Kicking in a Vacuum? Why Football Can’t Be Apolitical

July 19, 2018
Mohamed Salah’s meeting with Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov sparked controversy. Photo credit: KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images

FIFA’s codes and regulations have a very clear stance when it comes to politics; any display of it is strictly prohibited. Earlier in the 2018 World Cup, we saw the Federation put its stance into action when Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri from the Swiss team were fined after celebrating their goals against Serbia. Overwhelmed by pride and emotions, the two players, of Albanian-Kosovan heritage, put their hands together to form a double-headed eagle, resembling the Albanian flag. Kosovo was a former Serbian province and it declared its independence in 2008, rendering the relations between the two states tense, to this day. While the two players are Swiss nationals, there’s no doubt that they have a strong connection to their heritage. Shaqiri was actually born in Kosovo and Xhaka’s father was imprisoned and beaten by Serb nationalists during the campaign for Kosovan independence. While many sympathized with their celebration, FIFA found it to be a clear breach of its codes. The days to follow the match consisted of ongoing debates and rising tensions on and off social media between people from both sides. Not long after, the two were under…

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