Why Xherdan Shaqiri Didn't Travel To Belgrade With Liverpool
The Liverpool squad have travelled to Serbia to prepare for their Champions League tie with Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday due to the potential for distractions to their footballing efforts there that his inclusion may have caused.
The 27-year-old Shaqiri is an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo. There has long been tensions between the Serbian and Albanian peoples that share that land and, in the late 90s, a crackdown on the Albanian population of Kosovo by Serbia ended in violence, displacement of peoples and was only halted by NATO intervention in 1999.
Shaqiri, who emigrated to Switzerland with his family as a child in 1992, scored for his adoptive nation in a game against Serbia in this summer’s World Cup and raised the double-headed eagle gesture, a representation of the Albanian flag.
He was fined £7,632 for that act by FIFA for using the political gesture, which is against the rules of the game.
Concerns over security were raised in the build-up to this match and his manager has explained the club’s decision to leave him to sit out this encounter.
"We have heard and read the speculation and talk about what kind of reception Shaq would receive and although we have no idea what would happen, we want to go there and be focused 100% on football and not have to think about anything else," said Jurgen Klopp.
"We are keen to be respectful and keen to avoid any distractions. So, for that reason, Shaq is not involved and he accepts and understands this."
Shaqiri played a central role in the Reds’ dismantling of the Serbian champions in the reverse tie at Anfield last month, which finished 4-0.