Xherdan Shaqiri will not play for Liverpool at Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have decided against Shaqiri traveling with the squad due to the reception he may get in Serbia’s capital city due to his Kosvan-Albanian heritage. Serbia doesn’t recognize its former province Kosovo, where Shaqiri was born, as an independent state.
The situation could also be a little more dangerous due to Shaqiri scoring a late winner for Switzerland against Serbia in the 2018 World Cup and then celebrating by making a fluttering eagle symbol with his hands. That symbol was in reference to ethnic Albanians and Shaqiri was fined by FIFA, along with Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichsteiner, for making the gesture.
With reports that Shaqiri would be the subject of protests in Belgrade, it has been decided he will not travel.
“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 per cent on football and not have to think about anything else, that’s all,” Klopp said. “We are Liverpool FC, a big club, a football team but we don’t have any message further than that. We have no political message, absolutely not. We want the focus to be on a great game of football, free from anything else.
“We are keen to be respectful and keen to avoid any distractions that would take focus away from a 90-minute-plus contest that is important for football and only football. So for that reason, Shaq is not involved and he accepts and understands this. Shaq is our player, we love him, and he will play for us a lot of times, but not on Tuesday.”