The World Cup, to me, is the greatest tournament in sports. Better than the Olympics, World Series, NBA Finals. All of that. No other tournament is able to replicate the ratcheting up of tension like this month-long competition. There's also something special about the whole world competing to prove who's the best at one sport. And I do mean the whole world. But with so many countries—32 to be exact—involved in the World Cup, there are bound to be geopolitical tensions. And if you were able to catch the Switzerland vs. Serbia match, you just saw one of the largest ones to ever erupt.
But Switzerland has always been a neutral nation. How could this have happened? Let me explain.
Serbia, the largest nation in the former Yugoslavia, which disbanded after a ten-year civil war from 1991 to 2001, went up 1-0 against the Swiss. Then two goals were scored by Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, both of whose families were both Albanian refugees who fled their home country because of the war. Xhaka's father was jailed for three years for protesting Serbia's occupation of Kosovo, and Shaqiri is a Kosovar Albanian himself, as reported by Talk Sport.
When they scored, they threw up their hands to pantomime a bird flapping its wings as a symbol of the Albanian eagle.
Supporters of Serbia and Russia, which are sister nations, have been seen chanting "Kosovo je srbija" during this year's tournament, which translates to "Kosovo is Serbia." Shaqiri himself was wearing custom cleats for the match that had the Kosovo flag on the heel.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia still doesn't recognize Kosovo as an independent nation and, as a result, things have gotten tense as of late.
The final score was 2-1 in favor of the Swiss. But the bigger win was for Kosovo and Albania, where their refugees showed they were not afraid to stand up to the bully of the Balkans on a global stage.
Both players are likely to be fined by FIFA, according to multiple outlets.