19th October 2018
In Focus: Are international football´s governing bodies doing enough to tackle social issues?
By Robin Krasniqi, BA (Hons) International Football Business student at UCFB Wembley
Switzerland wins their second group game at the World Cup 2018 by a 2-1 scoreline against Serbia. The whole country is celebrating, but people in Kosovo are too. What has happened? For the answer, we need to look back a few years.
The bad relationship between Serbia and Kosovo caused by the Yugoslavian war in the 1990s led to the emigration of many Albanians living in Kosovo. My father’s family moved to Austria, but Granit Xhaka’s and Xherdan Shaqiri’s found their new homes in Switzerland.
In the present day, those two players scoring at the World Cup against the country they grew up hating made them National heroes in Kosovo. Additionally, doing the double-headed eagle celebration, which represents the eagle on the Albanian flag, did not contribute in a positive way. Ahead of that game, nationalistic Serbian fans were singing “kill the Albanians”. FIFA sanctioned both parties, but in my opinion, not hard enough.
As a neutral viewer of that game, and I am because of being Austrian and having good friends from both countries, it felt like Kosovo scored against Serbia and not Switzerland. If you represent a nation at a global event such as the World Cup, there should be no space for political issues such as the war-history between Kosovo and Serbia.
The players are professionals and should rise above chants like those from some primitive fans. That is why Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri should have been banned for at least one game at the World Cup. Getting a fine of £7,632 is a bad joke, considering they earn hundreds of thousands a week. Furthermore, the Serbian FA should have been given at least one game behind closed doors for the behaviour of some of their fans. Their fine of £41,000 was, in my view, not high enough.
Apart from handing out harder punishments that will actually affect by the perpetrators, international football’s governing bodies are powerless to prevent such incidents, but the press could play a more positive role. However, there is only one problem.
As we all know, bad headlines sell more newspapers than good ones. That was the main issue at this game. Instead of trying to bridge divisions and condemn provocative behaviour, national and international articles wrote what their readers wanted to read. In Kosovo, newspapers spoke about a glorious night of football, whereas in Serbia, the media talked about their national team being robbed. Trying to bring people together through positive press is possible, but not as profitable as writing what everyone wants to hear.
That is why the only one who will try to prevent and solve issues like those are the international football’s governing bodies. It is their responsibility to organise a game without political involvement and not the press.