Arsenal man Granit Xhaka has hit back at criticism over his suitability to captain his national team, Switzerland (via Sport Witness).
Granit Xhaka joined up with his Switzerland teammates earlier in the week but came under some unwelcome criticism.
There is a growing discussion in the country over which player should become the country’s next captain after Arsenal star Stephan Lichtsteiner retires from the international game.
As vice-captain, Granit Xhaka is a natural choice but not according to former Swiss international and Liverpool defender, Stephane Henchoz.
“He’s a regular player at Arsenal, but I think a captain must represent Switzerland and the team. Xhaka doesn’t,” Henchoz argued.
“Players like Sommer, Lichtsteiner or Schär, who represent traditional Switzerland, could feel excluded, just like fans who might not be able to identify with the team. The Swiss players without a migration background and Swiss fans, they would feel marginalised.”
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Xhaka was born in Switzerland to Albanian parents, the country which his brother, Taulant plays for internationally.
Now, Xhaka has hit back at Henchoz’s claims, just months after he and a number of other Swiss players of mixed heritage reached the Round-of-16 in the FIFA World Cup, the country’s joint-best finish since the 1950s.
“I was born and raised in Switzerland,” Xhaka protested.
“The fact that I have two hearts in my chest is a fact, which, by the way, I cannot help either. But I’ve been wearing the colours of this country, my home, for almost nine years!
“The accusation that I’m not in favour of Switzerland is void. In Gladbach or London, I am the respected Swiss who brings success, and suddenly I’m only half Swiss? Yes, that hurts me, that stresses me out. It’s hard to digest.
“The captain’s armband would fill me with pride, but I don’t need this role to take responsibility in the game. I talk, I scream, I take the boys and the old ones with me.”
It’s a baffling criticism from Stephane Henchoz and Granit Xhaka is right to speak up. It comes just a few weeks after Mesut Ozil retired from international duty amid similar treatment to what Arsenal teammate, Xhaka has endured with Switzerland.