Xherdan Shaqiri Not Playing in UCL Match Due to Sociopolitical Concerns

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Liverpool FC has decided not to travel attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri to their UEFA Champions League group stage clash tomorrow night at Red Star Belgrade. The decision was made due to off-the-pitch, not on-the-pitch concerns with reports circulating that the Swiss international, due to his Kosvan-Albanian heritage, would be the subject of political protests in Belgrade this week.

LFC posted the following statement on their website, attributed to manager Jurgen Klopp:

“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. 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.”

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The club’s “we’re going to stick to sports” message is in response to the likely backlash Shaqiri was set to face partially due to an incident in the World Cup this summer.

Shaqiri scored a late game winning goal for Switzerland over Serbia and celebrated by making a fluttering eagle symbol with his hands. The symbol, which alludes to ethnic Albanians, earned Shaqiri a fine from FIFA. Also, Serbia doesn’t officially recognize its former province of Kosovo, where Shaqiri was born, as an independent state.

This is not the only news story today involving a Premier League player and the geopolitics of Serbia. Manchester United midfielder and Serbian international Nemanja Matic explained why he stopped wearing the Remembrance Poppy on his shirt. Matic says the symbol reminds him of British involvement in the NATO bombing of his village when he was a child.

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Liverpool FC vs Red Star Belgrade FYIs

LFC starting XI prediction: go to this link

Injury Report for both teams: go to this link

Kickoff: Tuesday November 6, 555 pm BST, Red Star Stadium

Odds via Betway: Liverpool FC 1/20, Draw 12/1, Red Star Belgrade 28/1

Prediction: Liverpool FC 2, Red Star Belgrade 0

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Lineups.com and Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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