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Geiger hungry for new experiences

Switzerland's Alain Geiger, right, races past Italy's Roberto Baggio
© Getty Images

Former Swiss international Alain Geiger paid a visit to the Home of FIFA on Friday. Born in Uvrier, the retired centre-back, who will turn 52 on 5 November, has become a globe-trotting coach since calling time on a playing career spent almost entirely in Switzerland.

Most recently, Geiger was the man in charge of Saudi Arabian side Al Ittifaq until just a few weeks ago but, as he explained: "They lacked patience. The club had a good season last time out and we'd won six points from six matches this term, but they saw that as insufficient. Still, it was a very good experience."

In his own words, Geiger loves to "move around and discover different people and different styles of football", and he is currently on the lookout for a new post, possibly at the head of an African national team. "It would be a different experience, with more time to organise things," he said, keen to build on his recent stints with Algerian sides ES Setif and JS Kabylie, plus Egyptian outfit Al Masry Club.

What makes me proudest is having won the Swiss title with four different clubs.

"In Algeria, the situation I was in was quite exceptional," he explained. "I arrived at JS Kabylie and we were playing the CAF Champions League. The groups were drawn and we found ourselves alongside Al Ahly and Ismaily SC, two Egyptian clubs. Then the incidents which followed the World Cup play-off between the two countries' national teams happened, and I can tell you that things were tense."

Geiger is also hoping to draw on his experience as a player as he searches for a new role. "There's a hunger to learn from others in Africa," he said. "I took part in a World Cup, so there's a lot of expectation around me. For them, it's an experience that they'd like to share."

Lasting memories
His taste of the FIFA World Cup™ came at USA 1994, when Switzerland returned to the global showcase after an absence of 28 years. It is a memory that Geiger is unlikely to ever forget. "We had a superb generation of players, a great coach, and it was the crowning moment for us. It beats everything; it's all about defending your national team's colours. And to play the hosts in the opening match – it all brought extraordinary emotions that I still feel."

Indeed, the former Sion, Servette, Grasshoppers and Neuchatel Xamax player – who also enjoyed a spell in France with Saint-Etienne – has no regrets looking back. Above all, he is thrilled to have discovered "exceptional people and an exceptional region while at Saint-Etienne" and to have won four Swiss titles and four Swiss Cups, all of which provide great memories.

"What makes me proudest is having won the Swiss title with four different clubs," he said. "Every title was different, based on the club's region."

Clearly still passionate about the game and hungry for new experiences "in human and sporting terms", Geiger made the trip to Zurich to learn more about FIFA's development work.

"I believe that football development is part of a coach's job," he said. "That's not always compatible with what club officials want if they're after immediate results, but you have to think about the younger generations and passing knowledge on." May he long be able to share his expertise.

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