'Swissness' the key to success
Women's football is currently on the rise in Switzerland, as recent results have clearly shown. In 2015 the senior national team participated at a FIFA Women's World Cup™ for the first time, and will also make made a maiden appearance at the upcoming UEFA Women's EURO in the Netherlands. The trend has been mirrored at youth level too, where Switzerland reached the semi-finals of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship 2016, beating Germany 4-2 in the group stage along the way. Furthermore, the U-17s qualified for the elite round of the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship ahead of schedule.
According to Nora Hauptle, coach of the U-19s, the reasons for the upswing are obvious. "In Switzerland we have to work very effectively and efficiently with the few registered players we have," she said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "The Swiss Football Association (SFV) has developed a clear strategy in its training philosophy over the last 20 years, and that's conveyed to the players through well trained coaches.
"The avenues are shorter with us than they are at bigger associations and that means we can adapt our training to the demands of modern football more quickly," she continued. "On top of that, our 'Swissness' sets us apart: we're meticulous workers, be that at our clubs or in the national association, and we live out our philosophy with pride and passion."
Franziska Schild, head of women's football in the country, told FIFA.com exactly what that philosophy is and what the SFV does to further support the women's game: "It's an important component for the SFV. Just like in all other areas, in women's football the SFV follows two strategic aims: do as much as possible and as well as possible. What that means is that we employ measures in doing groundwork across the board, as well as at elite level.
"With the former it's all about supporting growth at every level: players, coaches, referees and officials. We do that through projects such as 'Bring a Friend' and 'More Women for Football'. In addition to that we want to make it possible for all girls to have access to football by consistently offering girl-only leagues. At elite level we want all our national teams to regularly qualify for major tournaments and, in the long term, to establish ourselves among the top ten nations in Europe. We also want to ensure that our first division remains competitive in Europe."
Example to follow The U-19s have already taken a step in the right direction. Guided by Hauptle, who herself enjoyed success as a player and represented the country at senior level, the team qualified for the elite round of the UEFA U-19 Women's EURO at the end of October. That tournament will take place in June in Germany, one of the most successful nations in women's football. Nevertheless Hauptle, who won the Swiss Olympic Coach Award in the Youth Team Coaching category, believes other countries can still learn plenty from Switzerland.
"I think what others can learn from us is how to train and develop players over the course of their entire career," said Hauptle. "On top of that, we offer very high quality despite having very few resources. In turn, we ourselves can certainly learn a thing or two about self-confidence, which isn't a quality that's in our Swiss nature. And yet we can be very proud of the number of top-quality players we produce."
Those include Lara Dickenmann, who, among other things, is a two-time Champions League winner; Ramona Bachmann, who has won the Swedish championship numerous times and was named Swiss Women's Player of the Year in 2009 and 2015; and Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, who tasted Champions League glory in 2015. All three play at the highest level internationally, meaning Switzerland can look to the future with optimism.
"The best-case scenario is that we reach the milestone of having 30,000 registered players, become the most popular women's sport in Switzerland , establish ourselves in the last 16 of the Champions League and win a title with the national team," Hauptle concluded. "After all, our internationals are already among the key players at top European clubs."