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October 23, 2014 11:21 am

Soccer Star Taulent Xhaka Accused of Nazi Salute

avatar by Eli Wishnivetski

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FC Basel defender Taulent Xhaka is accused of having delivered a Nazi salute. Photo: Twitter

The Swiss Football Association (FA) has announced an investigation into allegations that Taulent Xhaka, an Albanian defender with national soccer champions FC Basel, delivered a Nazi salute following a 1-0 victory last Saturday against Berne club Young Boys.

Photos of the gesture began circulating this week on social media, displaying a shirtless Xhaka with his right arm bent to his chest in one image, with a follow-up image showing his arm outstretched. Although the gesture may have been directed at the disappointed and raucous home crowd, Xhaka has claimed that he was just waving to his family.

This is the second major controversy involving Xhaka this month. During a European Championship qualifying game between Serbia and Albania on October 14, played in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, a drone appeared above the pitch carrying a banner with the Albanian flag. A Serbian player snatched the banner out of the air and began to roll it up. Taking offense, the Albanian players led by Xhaka charged their Serbian opponents, resulting in a brawl between the teams that spread to the  crowd.

Tal Ofer, a British representative to the European Jewish Parliament, told The Algemeiner that he personally filed a complaint against Xhaka with FC Basel, the Swiss FA, and UEFA, the governing body of European soccer. The complaint urged the governing associations to investigate Xhaka’s alleged Nazi salute and, if found guilty, to take disciplinary action.

Ofer also said he initiated the original complaint to the English FA against French footballer Nicolas Anelka, who celebrated a December 2013 goal for West Bromwich Albion by performing the “quenelle” – an inverted Nazi salute associated with the French comedian and anti-Semitic provocateur, Dieudonne Mbala Mbala. After their investigation found Anelka guilty of an “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper” act that “included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief,” the FA disciplined him with a five-game suspension and a £80,000 ($130,000) fine. Rather than appealing the punishment, Anelka quit the club in March of 2014.

Including Anelka, Xhaka’s on-field salute is the latest of a long list of instances of Nazi gestures and chants involving professional European soccer players within the last year. A Greek player was banned from representing his country in international play for celebrating a game-winning goal with a Nazi salute to fans. A Croatian player was banned from the 2014 World Cup for shouting Nazi-related chants into a microphone for an entire stadium crowd. A Belgian player was suspended for 10 games for using the quenelle in a goal celebration. Other players have supported or congratulated the players punished for performing the quenelle.

Ofer believes that UEFA and the football associations in Europe are not doing enough to remove racism from their leagues and that the punishments currently levied out do not function as a deterrent. “Fining football players won’t be effective, as they earn lots of money these days,” he said.

“It’s time to send a strong signal,” Ofer said. “UEFA should show zero tolerance to any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, and if a club is involved it should consider banning this club from European competitions. If a player is involved in such an incident, he should be banned for a long period.”

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