On Tuesday 21 July 2009, around a month after he was elected to the head of the Swiss Football Association (SFV), Peter Gillieron visited the Home of FIFA in Zurich to meet with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. After a wide-ranging discussion with the President of world football's governing body, Mr Gillieron, who has held the role of SFV Secretary General since 1993, spoke to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Mr Gillieron, what brings you to the Home of FIFA today?
Peter Gillieron: I was invited here by the FIFA President shortly after I was elected. It's customary for Football Association presidents to pay a visit to the FIFA President after taking office. Personally, I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to meet Joseph S. Blatter.
You were elected around a month ago now. What are your objectives and goals for the future?
Our long-term objective is clear: we want our various national teams to excel. We've seen a number of encouraging successes from our junior sides in recent years. As a starting point, the (senior) national team ought to reach the World Cup. On another issue, we intend to deal more effectively with violence at stadiums and surrounding areas. We're also keen to balance the books financially. Aside from that, we're hoping to make progress as far as numbers of players are concerned. At the present time, Switzerland has around 250,000 licensed players and it would be great if we could go beyond the 300,000 or even 350,000-mark in the near future. To do so we need more referees, more coaches and more officials. This is another area where we wish to focus our efforts. We must give clubs as much support as possible, so that they can count on the required number of staff. As you can see, we've set ourselves some ambitious objectives but we'll do everything we can to fulfil them.
Switzerland recently sealed qualification for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Germany 2010 and the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009. What are the expectations for these competitions?
Expectations are very high. I've seen our young women in action and they are a very dynamic team and capable of beating anyone. The U-17 internationals can also aim high, especially after their excellent performance in reaching the semi-finals of the EURO for their age group.
Alexander Frei, the national team captain and all-time top scorer, recently decided to return to Swiss football with FC Basel. Could his decision have a positive effect on the development of the game in Switzerland?
Both top-level and amateur football are inextricably linked. The professional game needs amateur football and vice-versa. If we want football to remain popular it's important people can identify with international players like Alexander Frei and others. Though it's obviously great news for our league that a player of Frei's calibre has come back to Switzerland, they don't all necessarily need to be playing here.
So, do you feel that talented young Swiss players need to go abroad in order to gain experience?
It's vital. That said, the new generation must not make the same mistakes the previous one did. Certain players left too early and it's better to wait for the right moment. Before attempting to succeed at Europe's biggest clubs, our best youngsters should cut their teeth in the Swiss Super League. Once they've made their name in Switzerland, it's time to go and try elsewhere. Ten years ago there weren't many (Swiss) internationals playing abroad, but nowadays more than three quarters are plying their trade in foreign climes. I believe this underlines the quality of our youth development and the talent of our young players.
In 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying, Switzerland are competing with Greece, Latvia and Israel for a ticket to South Africa. How do you view their chances of making it to next year's global showpiece?
We've got a good chance. We've got two decisive matches still to come against Greece and Latvia, and we must take four or six points in order to be in the best possible position going into the final straight. We'll also have the chance to get one over Luxembourg after they unexpectedly beat us at home (on 10 September 2008). I think that the players are ready for the challenge.
What would reaching a second successive FIFA World Cup finals mean to Swiss football?
In the first place it would enable us to continue with our in-depth work in the field of youth development. In effect, the national team serves as a shop window to encourage youngsters to take up our sport, while it is also a significant source of revenue for the Football Association. That's why it's vital that we make it to South Africa. If we wish to achieve the objectives that I described earlier, the national team needs to be performing well.