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Injured Behrami dragged into asylum row

Political issue highlighted: Valon Behrami did not appreciate being used by the Social Democrats Keystone

Switzerland's injured defender Valon Behrami has expressed his disappointment at becoming unwittingly embroiled in a political row over asylum.

This content was published on June 17, 2006 - 16:30

The Kosovan-born star's comments come on the day that 11,000 people protested in the Swiss capital against tough new asylum and foreigners laws.

Behrami, who helped Switzerland reach the World Cup with a goal in a play-off match against Turkey, said he had rejected an apology from the centre-left Social Democratic Party after they issued an electronic mail shot pointing out that he had nearly failed to find refuge in the country.

The Social Democrats had highlighted the problems Behrami had getting asylum in Switzerland as part of its campaign against the tightening of immigration policy.

"They did not ask me if I wanted to be in this campaign and I did not know anything about it," he told swissinfo at the Swiss team's training camp in Bad Bertrich, Germany.

"I received a fax from [the Social Democrats] apologising for what they did, but that's no good to me and my family because it is too late. This is not the right way of doing things.

"Politics does not interest me and I do not understand what this campaign is all about."

Groin

Behrami arrived in canton Ticino in 1990 aged five after fleeing Kosovo, but his family was only granted residence on the third attempt. Switzerland's asylum policy has become tighter in recent months, prompting complaints from the Social Democrats.

Behrami emerged as a special football talent through the Swiss youth system and was rewarded with his first senior cap in 2000 and a call-up to the Swiss World Cup squad.

But the 21-year-old's tournament has been blighted by a nagging groin injury that he picked up in training and is threatening to end his World Cup participation early.

He missed Switzerland's opening match against France last Tuesday and has been ruled out of Monday's game against Togo.

Doctors will decide next week whether to send him home, but Switzerland would then have to make do with a weakened squad as they have missed the deadline to replace injured players.

"I feel better than I did a few days ago, but it keeps flaring up when I train which is very disappointing," Behrami told swissinfo.

"I have stayed fit and healthy throughout my career so far so it is extremely frustrating to suffer this injury at this moment.

"I have every confidence that my team mates will give me a bit more time to get fit by continuing to play well. If the worst happens, then I will just have to accept it and carry on because I am young and have a few years ahead of me."

Asylum demonstration

In a separate development, on Saturday 11,000 people gathered in the Swiss capital Bern in protest against the tough new asylum and foreigners laws approved by parliament last year.

The government's decision to cut welfare payments to rejected asylum seekers and to exclude from asylum procedures those without valid identity papers has drawn widespread criticism.

In April a coalition headed by former Interior Minister Ruth Dreifuss comprising leftwing parties, churches and charities handed in more than 160,000 signatures against the laws to the Federal Chancellery.

The number of signatures collected in both cases was far above the required 50,000 to force a referendum: 121,794 were gathered against the asylum law and 74,246 against the foreigners legislation.

Dreifuss, who was at the demonstration on Saturday, said heart and head demanded that people reject both laws when they go to the polls on September 24.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Bad Bertrich and agencies

In brief

Behrami was a regular fixture in the Swiss youth teams but only decided to play for the senior team last year after agonising about representing Albania.

Behrami was granted residence with father Ragip, mother Harime and sister Valentina.

Last year the Swiss parliament voted to cut welfare payments to rejected asylum seekers and refuse asylum to people without proper papers.

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Key facts

Valon Behrami was born on April 19, 1985. He currently plays for Italian club Lazio.
He has played six times in the senior Swiss side, scoring once in November's World Cup qualifying play-off match against Turkey in Bern.
He made his Swiss debut in October last year in the qualifying game against France.
Switzerland are currently joint second in Group G with one point and need a draw against Togo on Monday to stand a chance of qualifying to the first knockout stage.
Their last group game is against South Korea in Hanover on June 23.

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