Football - Swiss boss says teenagers get their kicks abroad

Swiss champions FC Basel, renowned for their youth development programme, face a constant battle to stop teenage players moving to English, Spanish and Italian clubs.

Reuters

President Bernhard Heusler told Reuters in an interview that parents often do not listen to the club when warned against taking their sons elsewhere.

"We get enormous pressure from outside, including English clubs," said Heusler before adding Basel were powerless to stop their youngsters leaving before the age of 16.

"We cannot bind them until they reach 16 so foreign clubs just take them," he said.

"There are some specific rules but you can easily circumvent them and before they reach 16 there is a huge fight for these players from English, Italian and Spanish clubs," explained Heusler.

"We try to explain to a father why his son should stay but often these extremely talented guys are second generation immigrants, maybe the financial circumstances of their families are not the best and they get offers from big clubs in England who promise everything."

Heusler said it nearly always ended in tears when a player left at a young age.

"Of those who have left us at 14, 15 or 16, none of them have been successful...I think maybe one is the third goalkeeper at West Ham United or Arsenal," he added.

"There are many who left too early. We just had a player from our squad go to Manchester City - all of the coaches on our staff said he would not even make it with Basel yet he is going to City and he is 15 or 16."

Basel last year sold two of their brightest home-grown players to Bundesliga clubs with Xherdan Shaqiri joining Bayern Munich and fellow midfielder Granit Xhaka moving to Borussia Moenchengladbach.

The Swiss champions try to fill one-third of their squad with youth products.

"Either we develop them from 10 or 11 or our scouts in Switzerland find them at the age of 14 or 15 and try to integrate them," said Heusler.

"The ones who have been successful are the ones who stayed in the country like Xhaka and Shaqiri."

NOT THINKING

Heusler said the players who stayed with the club were encouraged to learn other professions in case they failed to make the grade in football.

"We are putting a lot of emphasis on education and interestingly we are fighting against parents and agents for these guys to get the time and opportunity to do the education we offer," he said.

"But we realise we are swimming against the tide. One mistake that is often made is these guys are put into the hands of people who try to influence them not to think too much and delegate their thinking to another person," explained Heusler.

"We prefer them to learn to think for themselves, to take charge of their lives, to learn how to fill out a tax return, but often this is all taken away."

Heusler said he was baffled by some of the things he had seen.

"We just had a 13-year-old player from South America," said Basel's president. "He had one week's training with an Under-14 team here.

"From us he went to Germany. Our coach said the player was okay but he was not exceptional.

"Imagine it. Now he will go around Europe and maybe at 16 he will be the victim of all this, he will have failed and he will have to go back to his family," said Heusler.

"It's a lack of responsibility, there is just greed to make money. By the time they are 18 or 19 they realise they have failed and they are broken."

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