Xherdan Shaqiri will probably avoid travelling with Liverpool for their Champions League match at Red Star Belgrade due to the hostile reception he would certainly receive, according to the Serbian club’s sporting director Zvezdan Terzic.
Shaqiri featured in one of the most controversial moments of this year’s World Cup, when he celebrated his winning goal in Switzerland’s 2-1 triumph over Serbia by imitating the two-headed eagle in Albania’s flag, something team-mate Granit Xhaka also did earlier in the game.
The celebration was a reference to Shaqiri’s Kosovan heritage, as he was born in the partially recognised nation which was fought over by forces from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Montenegro and Serbia at the time – and the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s.
Tensions between Serbia and Albania remain high because of the war and Shaqiri was strongly criticised for his actions.
And, after Liverpool were drawn alongside Red Star in Champions League Group C, Shaqiri can surely expect arguably the most hostile reception of his career if he does feature in Belgrade on November 6.
“I think Shaqiri will undergo extraordinary psychological pressure,” Terzic told daily Serbian publication Kurir.
“He knows where he will be going. I know very well that our club is a symbol of Serbia, unlike Partizan Belgrade, who represent Yugoslavia more.
“I do not know if he will be willing to play in Marakana [the nickname of Red Star’s Rajko Mitic Stadium] under these conditions, so I doubt he’ll come. If he comes, he’ll be smaller than a poppy seed.”
But Terzic was sure to ease Liverpool’s worries with respect to security, adamant they will do their duty and protect Shaqiri.
“We have to do everything we can to make Shaqiri feel like he can play football,” he added. “It is our duty to protect him. Let’s be good hosts.”