The Swiss Football Association (SFA) is hoping to breed success in the women’s game with the opening of a new centre of excellence for young players.
Thirteen stars of the future are already being put through their paces at the training centre deep in the heart of the Bernese Oberland.
Interest in women’s football in Switzerland has mushroomed in recent years, with the number of registered players rising from 9,000 to 11,700 in the past year alone.
But the growth at grassroots level has yet to pay dividends for the national side, which lies in 29th place in the world rankings.
The SFA has decided that if Switzerland is to compete with the likes of Germany, the United States and Brazil, then it needs to start work with promising players at an earlier age.
The soccer school is based at the National Centre for Sport in Huttwil and took in its first crop of teenagers – born in either 1989 or 1990 – last month.
“The training centre meets with everyone’s approval,” said Béatrice von Siebenthal, the SFA’s director of women’s football.
“It is right in the middle of Switzerland, the infrastructure is excellent, and everyone is behind us.”
From Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, the girls live with local families, attending school and six training sessions a week. At weekends, they return home to their families and play with their local club.
“We received an initial list of 60 applicants, who came through from the various regional selections,” explained von Siebenthal, herself a former Swiss international player.
“Only 45 of them attended the first selection in November last year – 15 withdrew. In March this year, we decided on the final group.”
For the next two years, the students will work on their technique and fitness, with a view to future appearances in the recently formed national under-17 side.
Speaking at the inauguration of the centre, Ralph Zloczower, president of the SFA, said he wanted Switzerland to become one of the best sides in Europe.
swissinfo, Raphael Donzel in Huttwil
1970 : women’s football launched in Switzerland.
2004: 427 teams and 11,700 registered players - up 30% on last year.
2004: Switzerland are 29th in the world rankings.