An Austrian FA (OFB) delegation, comprising President Dr. Leo Windtner and General Secretary Alfred Ludwig, visited Home of FIFA in Zurich on Monday 27 April 2009 for talks with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. Windtner, who took office in February, spoke to FIFA.com afterwards.
FIFA.com: Dr. Windtner, what brings you to Home of FIFA today?
Dr. Leo Windtner: The reason for our visit is my election as OFB President. I wanted to introduce myself personally to FIFA President Blatter, and outline my ideas for developing the game in Austria. I also wanted to take the opportunity to assure him of our full support on matters such as the '6+5' rule.
You’ve been OFB President since February. What are your goals for the months and years ahead?
We’re currently running a 'Future workshop', a forum for intensive analysis and debate, focusing on new structures for football in Austria. Overall, we need more professionalism and a results-oriented approach. We want the success we’ve enjoyed in recent years at youth level to be replicated by the senior national team, and by Austrian clubs in European club competitions.
In qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Austria made an excellent start but have since faded, although the most recent result was a 2-1 win over Romania. How hopeful are you of securing a place at the finals?
We have to keep our feet on the ground, we’re well aware of that. We’re currently rebuilding our senior national team. The average age of the line-up against Romania was 22 years and six months. We’re blooding a number of young players, although we have grounds for optimism because there are so many of them. We had almost written off qualifying for the 2010 finals, but we’re back in it again after beating Romania, and that’s important. However, we have some tough away fixtures to come, so we have to be realistic. The essential thing is to revive the passion for red-white-and-red, and for the fans in our country to recover their satisfaction with the way the national team performs. The 'EUROphoria', which has faded somewhat, needs to be restored.
On that topic, how important was installing Didi Constantini as the new national coach to succeed Karel Bruckner?
With all due respect to Karel Bruckner’s qualities and qualifications, it was fundamentally a response to the fact that we’d obviously run out of steam a little. Didi Constantini is an Austrian coach who’s risen to the challenge and succeeded in instilling new life into the team in a very short space of time.
Austria hit the headlines at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 by storming into the semi-finals. What’s the current situation regarding the youth set-up?
For the last eight years, we’ve resolutely pursued the so-called 'Austrian Way', which I’ve been closely involved in on behalf of the OFB. Youth development is all about patience and persistence. It’s always a work in progress, and you can never expect overnight success. However, one very positive aspect is the sheer number of extremely talented 17 to 21-year-olds coming through at the moment. One essential component of the programme is our focus on bringing exactly these players to the fore. It’s the right course, and it’s the one we’ll be following in the future.
Does the 2007 generation, with players such as Sebastian Prodl and Erwin Hoffer, represent the future of Austrian football?
These players will certainly be shouldering responsibility, but we’re fortunate in that we’re already seeing a swathe of talented youngsters coming through after them. They’re already holding their own in the top flight, and a few have even moved to top clubs abroad.
How important would the proposed '6+5' rule be in terms of youth development?
The key thing is to stop the best of the talent being 'parked' at major clubs, where they spend all their time on the subs’ bench and never gain match practice. It’s much better to have them playing for their home clubs in the domestic league. It benefits them and benefits the fans. From the perspective of our national association, we would entirely and completely welcome and support the '6+5' rule, as football fans continue to identify closely with players they consider their own at club level. On top of that, it’s also about the future of national teams.