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Double trouble Xhaka tackles Swiss football official over dual national controversy

Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka

Granit Xhaka says he is disappointed and angry about comments by Swiss football federation general secretary Alex Miescher suggesting players should drop their second nationality

(Keystone)

Swiss footballer Granit Xhaka has criticised Swiss football federation general secretary Alex Miescher for questioning whether the national team needs dual nationals.

“He [Miescher] has disappointed future and current dual national players like myself,” he told the Swiss News Agency, SDA-ATS, in an interview on Saturday. 

The Swiss midfielder, whose family comes from Kosovo but who was born in the Swiss city of Basel, said recent comments by Miescher had angered him. 

After a recent World Cup match against Serbia, three Swiss footballers, two of whom are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo [Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri], were fined by FIFA for making hand gestures of an Albanian national symbol to celebrate goals against Serbia.

In an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on July 6, Miescher said “that incident shows that there’s a problem. We have to ask ourselves: do we want dual nationals?”

He suggested that the association could offer its support programme for young players only to those who drop their second nationality. 

+ Read more about the dual nationality controversy in Swiss football

"I can see in his comments an idea that dual nationals are not prepared to do their utmost for Switzerland,” Xhaka declared. “This affects me and a number of other players with two nationalities directly. It sounds as if my colleagues and I didn’t give everything while wearing the Swiss jersey.”

Of the team’s 12 selected midfielders and forwards, ten either were born abroad or have parents who emigrated to Switzerland.

“We are all Swiss, and we give everything for the Swiss team. We all know exactly what we owe to Switzerland, what this country has done for us and our families. My roots are in Kosovo, those of Breel Embolo are in Cameroon. Manuel Akanji comes from Nigeria and Ricardo Rodriguez from Chile and Spain, etc,” Xhaka declared.

An article in Sunday’s Sonntagszeitung said that around half of the 283,000 registered footballers in Switzerland had foreign origins and that only 64 of Switzerland’s 1,440 football clubs (professional and amateur) did not have any players whose parents had foreign roots.

In a written statement to SDA/ATS on Saturday, the Swiss football federation reiterated its support for integration and regretted the discriminatory tone of Miescher’s interview. It said the issue of ensuring that young national team players continue to represent Switzerland and do not opt for another country because they have a greater chance of playing at international level had been around for years.

It said the federation had been considering various options such as getting young players to sign a contract or to give up their second nationality when joining the national team training programme. 

SDA-ATS/sb

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