Scoring at a World Cup deserves a celebration and we have been entertained by a range of them throughout the tournament. From Fortnite inspired dances by Lingard and Griezmann to Colombia’s choreographed routine and Batshuayi’s self-inflicting kick in the face.
Yet none of these resulted in the same reaction from FIFA as Xhaka and Shaqiri’s celebrations during Switzerland’s victory against Serbia. After each player scored, they made a gesture known as the ‘double eagle,’ which is a nationalist symbol that represents the eagle on the Albanian flag.
Both players have Albanian heritage. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. However, Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state. Xhaka’s father was imprisoned for demonstrating against Serbia’s government in the 1980s and so both had their reasons to celebrate in such a way when scoring against Serbia.
Under Article 54 of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code:
Anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches and sanctioned with a minimum fine of CHF 5,000.
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee opened proceedings against the duo but soon concluded they had not breached Article 54. Instead, they had infringed the FIFA disciplinary code for unsporting behaviour.
Unsporting Behaviour is outlined in Law 12 of the International Football Association Board’s Laws of the Game. Xhaka and Shaqiri therefore avoided suspensions and instead received fines of 10,000 CHF each.
IFAB’s Laws of the Game provides further information about goal celebrations:
Players can celebrate when a goal is scored, but the celebration must not be excessive; choreographed celebrations are not encouraged and must not cause excessive time-wasting.
Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offence but players should return as soon as possible.
A player must be cautioned for:
-climbing onto a perimeter fence and/or approaching the spectators in a manner which causes safety and/or security issues
-gesturing or acting in a provocative, derisory or inflammatory way
-covering the head or face with a mask or other similar item
-removing the shirt or covering the head with the shirt
Further under Law 4(5):
Players must not reveal undergarments that show political, religious, personal slogans, statements or images, or advertising other than the manufacturer’s logo. For any offence the player and/or the team will be sanctioned by the competition organiser, national football association or by FIFA.
The guidance accompanying Law 4(5) recognises that ‘political’ is difficult to define but goes on to detail the certain circumstances that are not permitted. Examples include slogans, statements or images of any person living or dead and any specific political act event. (See also out series of blogs on England and Scotland wearing poppies on their shirts during a match in 2016).
Some footballers may use this opportunity to make a political statement. Others seem to just get caught up in the moment (as Robbie Fowler did in his celebration imitating sniffing cocaine along the goal line). Yet perhaps players should start being business minded during such celebrations.
Previously we have seen athletes turn their celebrations into personal brands from Mo Farah’s Mobot to Usain Bolt’s lightning bolt. Footballers have legally protected logos stemming from such celebrations. For example when at Tottenham, Gareth Bale trademarked his Eleven of Hearts celebration as a logo to be used on clothing, footwear and headgear.
England’s Jesse Lingard has recently applied to trademark his JLingz celebration as a logo used on clothing, footwear and headgear, where he shapes his hands into his initials JL. Let‘s hope we see this particular celebration in action tomorrow night.