One of the top Swiss midfielders of his time, Ricardo Cabanas began his stellar career towards the end of the 1990s at Grasshoppers before moving to Guingamp on loan and later transferring to Cologne, where he eventually hung up his boots in 2012.
Ricci will be a special guest at this year’s Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup™, a tournament that holds a special place in his heart, as he explains in this interview.
Ricardo, when was the last time you were at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup? The last time I went to Buchlern was in 2019. I went as a spectator and it was the last edition of the tournament to take place before it was cancelled because of the pandemic.
They say that the tournament is a launch pad for the careers of talented youngsters, and that was certainly the case for you. But what is the truth behind the myth? I don’t actually know who has gone on to have a career after appearing at the tournament, but for me, it was a very important event. As young players, we were certainly aware that it was a kind of test for us. If you managed to hold your own in the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup and played well, it was a sign that you were ready to step up to the first team. In January 1998, when I turned 19 years old, Grasshoppers first offered me a place at their training camp for pros. Then, in May, I played in my second Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup and we beat Internacional from Brazil in the final. It was a fantastic moment. For me, it was a really important experience, and I look back on it fondly. Winning the tournament in 1998 with Grasshoppers was really special.
Do you have any special memories of that time? Winning the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup was huge for me. Even as a young lad, I was a real fan of the tournament, watching matches and collecting autographs. I was particularly proud of one autograph, that of Iván de la Peña, who appeared at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in the early 90s with Barcelona. I completely idolised him. Winning the tournament was extra special because I knew it inside out, and then suddenly there I was, one of the players and, what’s more, one of the winning heroes. It was an unbelievable feeling at the time. It was fantastic to play in front of so many fans, who cheered but also booed. I remember all the passionate Benfica fans, for example, and thinking during the match: “Wow, they’re something else.” Like I said, it gave you a taste of what it would be like to play professional football.
If you were telling someone about the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup or, better yet, if you had to sell it to them, what would you do, what would you say? I’d say: come on down and see the potential global stars of tomorrow – while they’ve still got their feet on the ground. At that age, you’re fresh and raring to go, a bit naïve, even. That’s how I was, anyway, looking forward to the games and everything going on behind the scenes. Money and pressure don’t come into it yet – it’s all about playing football and putting yourself forward.
So, will we see you back at Buchlern this year? Most definitely, I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to the games as well as to reminiscing about where it all started for me.