Xherdan Shaqiri was born in the Kosovan city of Gjilan in the former Yugoslavia before later emigrating to Switzerland, the country he represents at international level.
The 27-year-old provoked controversy at this summer’s World Cup when he celebrated a late winning goal against Serbia by making an ‘Albanian eagle’ gesture with his hands.
Shaqiri is of Kosovar-Albanian heritage. Tensions between the Albanian and Serbian populations within Kosovo have long existed and led in part to the Kosovo War in the late 1990s.
Albania and Serbia fought on opposing sides of the conflict and, despite Kosovo declaring independence in 2008, Serbia does not fully recognise the province as a state.
Shaqiri’s celebration in June angered the Football Association of Serbia, who also lodged a complaint to Fifa about the winger playing with an image of the Kosovo flag on his boots.
Shaqiri, as well as his Switzerland team-mates Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner, were fined by Fifa for unsporting behavior.
Though there are no fears for Shaqiri’s safety in Belgrade, Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, is believed to be concerned that the winger’s presence could cause an unnecessary distraction for his side.
A decision on Shaqiri’s involvement will be made on Monday morning before Klopp and his squad fly out to the Serbian capital for Tuesday’s Group C tie.
Following the 4-0 victory over Red Star at Anfield last month, Shaqiri claimed he had no concerns about playing in Serbia.
“I don’t really care what people are saying,” he said. “I just go there to play a football game. It is not about politics it is about football. I worry about nothing and go to play.”
In September, Red Star’s sporting director, Zvezdan Terzic, said that though his club would do everything in their power to protect Shaqiri, it may ultimately be wise for him not to travel.
“I think that Shaqiri will be under unbelievable psychological pressure because he will know where he is coming,” Terzic said.
“He knows that the Red Star is a symbol of Serbia and playing the Marakana, I don’t know whether he will play.
“Of course, as a football club we treat our rivals equally and we do not have to deal with the past and the history.
“Red Star must do everything to make Xherdan Shaqiri feel that he came to play football and it is our duty to protect him in the case of unwanted situations. Let’s be good hosts.”