FC Lucerne are currently flying high at the top of the Swiss Super League. Coach Murat Yakin and his younger brother Hakan, who is team captain, visited Joseph S. Blatter at Home of FIFA in Zurich on Wednesday and presented the FIFA President with an engraved timepiece in his honour. Afterwards, FIFA.com spoke to the former Switzerland internationals.
FIFA.com: Things are going really well for Lucerne at present. Why is the club in such good shape?
Murat Yakin: There’s a huge amount of energy at the club, everyone’s fired up and determined to achieve things. There’s also a lot of hard work, good tactics, and careful planning. Finally, the new stadium has given us a real boost.
Hakan, you’ve decided to leave Lucerne this winter and join Bellinzona. What are the reasons for that?
Hakan Yakin: At 35, you have to start thinking about your future. Naturally, I’m aiming to stay in football. I’m already an ambassador for the new stadium, and that’s a job with a future. I can work for the club as an advisor, director of sport and scout, and that appeals to me.
Murat Yakin: The decision to join Bellinzona is a crucial one for Hakan’s future. There are lots of opportunities, and maybe he’ll grow into a new role.
What’s it like having your own brother as a coach and player respectively?
Hakan Yakin: It's a very special situation. The chemistry is good, he treats me like any other player and doesn’t favour me at all.
Murat Yakin: I try very hard to be neutral. It has to be the same for every player, and I can’t be singling out individuals. Hakan has to take the decisions out on the field. The important thing is football and FC Lucerne, not the two of us. We live to play football.
Which of your brother’s qualities would you most like to have?
Hakan Yakin: His calm and relaxed attitude.
Murat Yakin: The fact he’s so carefree. It means you can really savour the experience and all the emotions of being out on the field.
The national team now travel to face Wales and then entertain Montenegro in the bid to secure a place at UEFA EURO 2012. How would you assess Switzerland’s chances of making it to the finals in Ukraine and Poland?
Hakan Yakin: The best thing is that Switzerland can still reach the play-offs under their own steam as group runners-up, although winning away to Wales will be tough – almost more difficult than at home to Montenegro. Let’s see how the younger players cope with the pressure, but I’m an optimist, and I hope Switzerland make the play-offs.
Switzerland contested the last two major tournaments, UEFA EURO 2008 as co-hosts and the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. How important is making the 2012 tournament for Swiss football?
Murat Yakin: We’ve rather gotten used to being at major tournaments, so it’ll be a shame if Switzerland don’t make it. The national team has been very consistent of late, and some decent players have emerged through the ranks. We’ve picked up on and developed talented youngsters nice and early. It would be a shame if the results of all that effort weren’t seen on a European stage.
The Swiss U-17 team were crowned world champions in 2009, and the U-21s finished second at this year’s European championships. How good is the current youth crop?
Murat Yakin: The very young players are benefiting from playing with the experienced guys at an early age. We’re seeing plenty of 16 and 17-year-olds in senior first teams, and I guess that’s rarely the case in any of the big footballing nations. I think that gave us a decisive advantage at the U-17 World Cup.
Hakan Yakin: Switzerland isn’t particularly attractive to players from overseas, so we tend to focus on our own talented youngsters.
Murat Yakin: Mind you, let’s not forget where we actually stand. We have to take a realistic approach when offers come in, but still avoid selling young players at every opportunity. Our league has become more consistent and evenly-matched, and international competition gives the lads a chance to shine. Our young players will always get attractive offers, and they can earn more overseas. That's the cross we have to bear in Switzerland.
You both have Turkish roots, and the Swiss national team is full of players from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. What role does the game play in integrating young people into society?
Murat Yakin:It was vital for both of us. Football taught us about responsibilities and moral commitment, for example. We grew up surrounded by a number of cultures, and there’s nowhere like Switzerland for that. Football helps you achieve things and learn valuable lessons for life. If you love football and you’re passionate about it, you’ll be repaid at some point in the future.
What are your short-term goals?
Hakan Yakin: As the President said to us: You always need targets, because you can never stand still.
Murat Yakin:I’m really enjoying what I do. If you sense the possibility of improvement, if the market conditions are acceptable and the philosophy is right, you can happily get on with your work with no distractions. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s about winning things. It's a big responsibility, because if you do a good job, you can make a lot of people happy.