KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Alex Miescher has quit as general secretary of the Swiss football federation, the first casualty but almost certainly not the last, of the SFV’s reactionary stance over the so-called “double-headed eagle affair ” at the World Cup finals in Russia.
The issue, which had been bubbling beneath the surface at the SFV, exploded after three Swiss players – midfielder Granit Xhaka, winger Xherdan Shaqiri and fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner – were fined and cautioned by world governing body FIFA for a ‘double-eagle’ goal celebration in the 2-1 win over Serbia.
That gesture represented an Albanian symbol expressing the Albanian/Kosovar background of several players whose families fled the Balkans for Switzerland after the fighting following the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Miescher’s subsequent comments, about a need for tighter regulations over bi-national players, infuriated the players. Arsenal midfielder Xhaka complained that Miescher had expressed “Stone Age comments aimed at Swiss dual citizens.”
Xhaka added: “My family roots are in Kosovo as with some other team-mates. The Swiss national team consists anyway of 50 to 60pc double citizens or secondos. “Even our boss (Vladimir Petkovic) is a dual citizen and has given blood and sweat to the national team.”
The Swiss federation, seeking to cool the tension, issued a statement issuing “regrets about an impression that it was opposed to bi-national players.”
It came too late to head off increasing demands from within the media and domestic game for leadership changes at the SFV.
Federation president Peter Gilliéron said he “regretted” Miescher’s departure but understood it. Deputy Robert Breiter will take over the general secretary’s duties for the time being.
The Swiss federation has long harboured inconsistent and reactionary attitudes over bi-national players.
They surfaced notably at the UEFA Congress in Budapest in May 2016 which approved the membership application of Kosovo on a narrow but sufficient 28-24 vote.
Miescher, supporting opposition from Serbia, delivered a lengthy attack on the Kosovar application, saying: “There’s an issue for us in Switzerland about the status of the players. We don’t know whether they will be able to choose who to play for.
“It’s unfair to give these players a choice because it will be a choice for a nation or against a nation.”
The Swiss tangle has coincided with the eruption of a debate over bi-national players in Germany following the angry national team exit of Mesut Ozil.
Xhaka’s Arsenal club-mate complained that he had been scapegoated for the 2014 world champions’ failure in Russia because of his Turkish family roots.