Argentinian fans wear face masks of Vladimir Putin and Lionel Messi

Argentinian fans wear face masks of Vladimir Putin and Lionel Messi
Image: Argentinian fans wear face masks of Vladimir Putin and Lionel Messi

The World Cup, and indeed football in general, is usually an escape from problems off the pitch.

When it comes to sport, it doesn’t matter what your political leaning is, if there’s a war in your country, or if you have a controversial head of state – all that matters is the game.

Or so it should.

But this World Cup has proven that the current state of world politics is something that can’t be escaped, or ignored.

Here is a look at events that have created a World Cup politics sideshow.

The ‘double-headed eagle’

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri
Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri make suggestive gestures

Two Switzerland players became the subject of a FIFA investigation for their controversial goal celebrations in the team’s 2-1 win against Serbia.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri both made apparent Albanian nationalist gestures which imitate the Albanian flag.

The pair, who received a warning and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs (£7,634) but were not banned, have ethnic Albanian heritage with Kosovan roots.

Many people in the former Serbian province of Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority, identify with the red and black flag.

A Serbian crackdown on Kosovo Albanian rebels in 1998-1999 only ended when NATO intervened.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 but Serbia does not recognise the status, and relations between the two countries remain tense.

Serbian media called Shaqiri’s goal gesture “shameful provocation”.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, while Xhaka’s parents are originally from Kosovo.

His brother plays for Albania’s national team.

Mo Salah’s honorary citizenship

Egypt's hopes rest on the brilliant Mohamed Salah

Liverpool’s Egyptian forward has been urged to explain his decision to accept an honorary citizenship of Chechnya by its ruler Ramzan Kadyrov.

Mr Kadyrov has been widely criticised for a series of human rights violations.

Salah was given the decree at a dinner in honour of the Egypt team ahead of their departure for…

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