BROTHERS Taulant and Granit Xhaka will play their first games at Euro 2016 this afternoon – on opposite sides.
Taulant will represent Albania, who are making their first-ever appearance at a major tournament, while his younger brother Granit will represent Switzerland.
It is the first time in European Championship history that two brothers will face each other.
In the World Cup, it has happened before, most recently in 2014 when Kevin-Prince Boateng represented Ghana against his brother Jerome, who played for Germany.
There are other links besides the two Xhaka brothers in today’s match in the northern town of Lens.
Both squads have players who were eligible to represent either country, following the migration of Albanian families with roots in Kosovo to Switzerland since the 1980s.
In Albania’s 23-man squad, a total of 11 have origins in Kosovo, while Switzerland has four. But of those 11 playing now in the Albanian jersey, six were born in Switzerland.
The Xhaka brothers were born in Basel to a Kosovar-Albanian family. They both played for Swiss national youth teams before Taulant decided to represent Albania at senior level.
Granit opted to stay and his stock has risen. He was recently signed by Arsenal after captaining Borussia Monchengladbach.
“For both it will be a special match,” Granit said. “I am proud of Switzerland, but of course I cannot forget my roots.”
His brother promised “a strong duel” and spoke of his desire to “beat him”.