Xherdan Shaqiri after scoring for Switzerland against Honduras at the World Cup

Xherdan Shaqiri after scoring for Switzerland against Honduras at the World Cup

If you ask Shaqiri about his origins, he will describe himself as a Kosovar-Albanian. And although he has lived in Switzerland since infancy, he still defines himself by his roots. When his club, Bayern Munich, won the Champions League, he celebrated with a half‑Swiss, half-Kosovan flag. From the very start of his career, Shaqiri has known that he represents something more than football.

Switzerland’s 350,000 second-generation immigrants are known as Secondos. More than a fifth come from the former Yugoslavia, and in recent years Secondos have become prominent members of the national squad. Apart from Shaqiri, other Balkan Secondos Granit Xhaka, Pajtim Kasami, Valon Behrami, Blerim Dzemaili and Admir Mehmedi are all in line to face England on Monday: beacons of inspiration in a country that has historically had a difficult relationship with its immigrant population.

“I think we have contributed to a good climate,” Shaqiri said in an interview in April. “And we give Secondos courage that they can achieve something – in life generally, not just in football.”

For some reason, however, Shaqiri has always been singled out for attention, probably as a result of his immense talent. His diminutive stature (5ft 7in), sturdy frame and quick feet have given rise to some odd nicknames: The Alpine Messi, The Magic Dwarf, Power Cube. He can play on the wing but most commonly plays as a No 10 for Switzerland, where his eye for a pass and unerringly accurate shooting can be put to best use.

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