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Xherdan Shaqiri left out for Liverpool's trip to Belgrade

Chuck Penfold
November 6, 2018

Shaqiri has not traveled to Belgrade for Liverpool's Champions League match against Red Star. His omission comes nearly five months after he was fined for a hand gesture made during a World Cup match against Serbia.

Russland WM 2018 l Serbien vs Schweiz – 1:2 Tor Xherdan Shaqiri
Image: Getty Images/C. Rose

Liverpool left forward Xherdan Shaqiri out of their Champions League squad for their match against Red Star Belgrade to ensure that the club was completely focused on the match, manager Jürgen Klopp said on Monday.

Shaqiri (pictured above), an ethnic Albanian who was born in Kosovo but plays for the Swiss national team, could have faced a harsh reception in Belgrade on Tuesday, not just because of his heritage, but also for a gesture he made after scoring a goal at the World Cup in Russia last summer. 

Shaqiri and two of his teammates celebrated his goal in Switzerland's 2-1 win over Serbia at the World Cup in Russia by making ahand gesture that appeared to imitate the eagle on the Albanian flag. FIFA fined Shaqiri 10,000 Swiss francs (€8,730, $9,970) for "unsporting behavior," but after the match he suggested that the gesture was not politically motivated.

"I'm very happy to score the goal, that's all," he said.

More than a decade after Kosovo broke away from Serbia, relations between the two remain tense and Belgrade refuses to recognize the independence of its former southern province.

'Politics has always influenced life'

Speaking at the pregame press conference in Belgrade on Monday, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said he took decision in light of the political situation.

"We are here to play football. Shaqiri will play a lot of games for us but not tomorrow," Klopp said. "We are in Serbia and we respect that 100 percent. That's the world. Politics has always influenced life — on the planet I live at least."

Klopp also said the decision was meant to ensure that his team could completely focus on the game.

The Reds go into Tuesday's match on top of Group C on six points, followed by Napoli on five and Paris Saint-Germain on four. Red Star have just one point.

pfd/dv (Reuters, AP)