Albanian politician joins viral campaign to fund Shaqiri, Xhaka fines
A crowdfunding campaign to help pay the fines levelled at Switzerland's Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri by FIFA following their World Cup win over Serbia has reached over $14,000 in less than 24 hours.
The 2-1 win over Serbia in Kaliningrad on Friday created significant controversy due to the way goalscorers Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated.
The players, who have Albanian and Kosovan heritage, made what appeared to be an eagle symbol with their hands that seemed to mimic the emblem on the Albanian flag.
FIFA decided not to suspend the players but fined Xhaka and Shaqiri CHF 10,000 (£7,637) each, and Stephan Lichtsteiner CHF 5,000 (£3,820) for his part in the celebrations.
A GoFundMe page was set up on Sunday by an individual in New York and has already reached more than half its target of $25,000.
The page says Shaqiri and Xhaka "brought joy and happiness to all Swiss and Albanians across the globe.
"If the Swiss Football Association does not accept the funds raised, we will gladly donate all the money to a charity of their choosing."
— Xherdan Shaqiri (@XS_11official) June 24, 2018
The campaign has already gone viral and has earned support back in Albania, where Bajram Hasani, the country's Minister of Trade and Industry, has pledged one month's salary to the cause.
"There is no money to pay for the emotions Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri brought us when they celebrated with the eagle," he said, as quoted by Kosovan broadcaster Klan Kosova.
"They have been punished just because they did not forget their roots.
"It's not that they don't have the financial means to pay their punishment, but a sense of pride they have given us that makes me feel obliged to allocate some salary for the payment of this fine.
"Keep going, guys, make us proud!"
The celebrations caused great anger among a number of supporters and the media in Serbia, which does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state.
Some Swiss fans on social media also accused Xhaka, Shaqiri and Lichtsteiner of detracting from the success of the national team.
The Swiss Football Association (SVF) said on Monday that it accepted the punishments and was eager to shift focus back onto their final Group E game against Costa Rica in Nizhny Novgorod, where a win will guarantee their place in the last 16.