‘It’s our duty to protect him’: Red Star Belgrade vow to keep Xherdan Shaqiri safe when Liverpool travel to Serbia in Champions League
- Red Star Belgrade pledge to protect Xherdan Shaqiri when he visits Serbia
- Liverpool have been drawn against Belgrade in Champions League group stage
- Shaqiri controversially gestured ‘Albanian Eagle’ against Serbia at World Cup
Red Star Belgrade have pledged to protect Xherdan Shaqiri from ‘unwanted situations’ when the Liverpool winger arrives for their Champions League group match in November.
However, general director Zvezdan Terzic believes the Switzerland international, born in the former Yugoslavia to Kosovan-Albanian parents, will be under ‘unbelievable psychological pressure’ because of his background.
Shaqiri courted controversy during the World Cup when he celebrated a last-minute winner against Serbia with an ‘Albanian Eagle’ gesture.
Xherdan Shaqiri gestures the ‘Albanian Eagle’ after late winner against Serbia in World Cup
He and Swiss team-mates Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner were all fined for unsporting behaviour for making the gesture, which symbolises the Albanian flag.
‘Personally, I can’t imagine that an Albanian will play for Red Star,’ Terzic told Belgrade newspaper Kurir.
‘Red Star is a Serbian club, Partizan (Belgrade) was Yugoslav.
‘I think that Shaqiri will be under unbelievable psychological pressure because he will know where he is coming; he knows that the Red Star is a symbol of Serbia and playing the Marakana, I don’t know whether he will play.
Red Star Belgrade director Zvezdan Terzic (right) vows to protect Shaqiri on Liverpool visit
‘Of course, as a football club, we treat our rivals equally, and we do not have to deal with the past and the history.
‘Red Star must do everything to make Shaqiri feel that he came to play football and it is our duty to protect him in the case of unwanted situations. Let’s be good hosts.’
Shaqiri was born in the former Yugoslav city of Gjilan, now part of Kosovo, where a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian population ended with Nato military intervention in 1999.
Kosovo, with a mainly Albanian population, declared independence in 2008 but Serbia refuses to recognise it as a state and it has led to tense relations between the two countries.
Shaqiri (left) will visit Serbia with new club Liverpool in Champions League in November