Contributor Perspectives

The Balkan Wars Revisited at the World Cup

Thomas M. Hunt
Board of Contributors
Jul 9, 2018 | 10:00 GMT
Swiss player Xherdan Shaqiri's celebration after scoring a World Cup goal against Serbia included flashing the Albanian eagle. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, whose ethnic Albanian population fought a destructive conflict with Serbia in the 1990s.

Swiss player Xherdan Shaqiri's celebration after scoring a World Cup goal against Serbia included flashing the Albanian eagle. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, whose ethnic Albanian population fought a destructive conflict with Serbia in the 1990s.

(CLIVE ROSE/Getty Images)

Watching the World Cup abroad is a special experience. For the monthlong duration of the event, whole cities come to a standstill, especially as their countries' teams compete. Waiters at cafes at times seem almost unable to take orders because they are so transfixed on what's taking place on the field of play. In Lausanne, my favorite spots to watch the matches were inevitably communal in nature: The terrace of a bar at the base of the nearly 800-year-old Lausanne Cathedral called the Great Escape or a craft brewery in an industrial section of the city called La Nebuleuse. Indeed, it was here that my teaching assistant Austin Duckworth and I watched what surely will be remembered as the most politically meaningful match in the group stage of this year's competition, the one pitting Switzerland and Serbia. Nationalism and the memory of Balkan conflict were on strong display....

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