Belfast Telegraph

Red Star vow to protect Shaqiri as Liverpool star faces 'unbelievable pressure' in Serbia

The 26-year-old was born in the former Yugoslavia to Kosovan-Albanian parents.

Tensions could run high when Xherdan Shaqiri travels to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League (Nick Potts/PA).
Tensions could run high when Xherdan Shaqiri travels to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League (Nick Potts/PA).

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.

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.

“Of course, as a soccer 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.

Striker Divock Origi has been named in Liverpool’s Champions League squad.

The Belgium international, who was also named in their Premier League squad despite making his last appearance for the club over a year ago due to a loan spell at Wolfsburg, has not made a match-day squad so far this season.

Liverpool were prepared to sell Origi for £27million in the summer but Valencia and Borussia Dortmund were put off by the price tag.

However, Lazar Markovic, who has not played for the club since May 2015 and saw a deadline-day move to Anderlecht collapse, has not been included in either the Champions League or Premier League squads.

Press Association

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