Swiss scout for young football talent abroad
The Swiss Football Association (SFA) says attempts to find fresh talent among the ranks of Swiss youths living abroad have met with some success.
The initiative was launched two years ago after a number of local players with dual citizenship snubbed Switzerland's national team.
"Around 200 young Swiss living abroad came forward and have been deemed suitable to join one of our national teams. But it is rather difficult to judge their abilities before inviting them for a training camp," said Hansruedi Hasler, the SFA's technical director.
There is at present no scouting network to uncover promising talent abroad. But in some countries Swiss trainers are helping in the search.
"Swiss trainers in Canada, Brazil and Argentina are working with us," Hasler explained. "But the situation remains complicated. For example, sending somebody to view one or two players in Panama; and that's not counting the expenses."
He said the association has given itself a few years to evaluate the project to determine whether it is worth the investment. The first selection of potential candidates will serve as a test.
The technical director believes Switzerland is justified in looking beyond its borders to find its "rare pearl".
This was because a number of talented players with dual citizenship choose to play for a different country even after developing professionally in Switzerland.
According to a regulation introduced by Fifa - football's international governing body - in October 2003, a player with dual citizenship can decide to play for either team, even if he has played for the junior team of one of the two countries.
Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Eldin Jakupovic for example shunned the Swiss national team and opted for Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina respectively.
"Over the past six years, the SFA has done everything for Kuzmanovic. It has cost us SFr25,000 ($20,600) a year, with a total investment of around SFr150,000. But at the last minute he chose to play for Serbia. It's not fair," Hasler said.
"The Fifa regulations are prejudiced against the countries which bring the player through [professionally]. It is absolutely necessary to lower the age at which the choice of country must be made. In this way, the country which supports [the player's] training can take advantage of his skills."
Stay or go?
Fortunately for Switzerland, a number of players in such a situation have decided to play for the alpine side.
These include Johann Djourou, Philippe Senderos, Blerim Dzemaili and Valon Behrami who could have chosen the Ivory Coast, Spanish, Macedonian or Albanian sides respectively.
The Swiss-Colombian player Johann Vonlanthen hesitated for a long time but finally decided to join the Swiss team. He played in Euro 2004 in Portugal and was called up for the World Cup in Germany last year.
Many others will have to make this choice in the near future. One of them is Basel player Ivan Rakitic, who is also in the sights of the Croatian team.
swissinfo, based on a French article by Mathias Froidevaux
In October 2005, national team trainer Köbi Kuhn launched his appeal to 200,000 young Swiss living abroad with an interest in football through Swiss Review, published by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad. Close to two hundred people answered.
Older players are being asked to send in a video highlighting their talent and the younger players, aged 15-17, will be brought together at a training camp in Ticino this autumn. This will be co-organised with the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad.
The Swiss Football Association has 1,500 member clubs and 11,200 teams with a total of 280,000 players.
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