Hosting the UEFA European Under-19 Championship was a landmark for Liechtenstein.
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Founded in 1934, the Liechtenstein Football Association (Liechtensteiner Fussballverband or LFV) represents a principality of only 35,000 people. However, its senior national side has played in UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup qualifying tournaments since 1994 and, with more than a century of teams covering both sexes and all age groups, the association has over 1,900 registered footballers.
The best of the Alpine country's footballing talent is displayed at one of seven senior clubs who compete in the Swiss league system. FC Vaduz are the oldest, established in 1932, followed by FC Balzers (1932), FC Triesen (1932), FC Schaan (1932), FC Ruggell (1958), FC USV Eschen-Mauren (1963) and FC Triesenberg (1972). Vaduz are the only fully professional outfit.
Vaduz, the nation's capital, is also home to the Rheinpark Stadium, built to FIFA and UEFA specifications and opened in 1998. The stadium, one of seven football facilities boasting 21 pitches in total, has 6,127 covered seats. It is from this set-up that several players have emerged to become professionals in major European leagues.
The LFV joined the game's European and world bodies, UEFA and FIFA, in 1974. International recognition was a positive development for soccer in Liechtenstein, enabling the association to play its part in the football family. In 2003, UEFA entrusted the LFV with staging the UEFA European Under-19 Championship. Five years later the UEFA Executive Committee, meeting in Liechtenstein for the first time, named the country as host nation of the 2010 UEFA European U17 Championship. Liechtenstein, bordered by Austria and Switzerland, was also a venue for staff events relating to the UEFA EURO 2008 finals in these neighbouring countries.
A milestone event on the pitch occurred when Vaduz were promoted to the professional ranks of Swiss football's second tier, the Challenge League, in 2001. Vaduz bettered that achievement by spending the 2008/09 season in Switzerland's top flight, the Super League, and then repeating the feat for the 2014/15 campaign. Vaduz, Balzers, Triesen, Schaan, Ruggell, Eschen-Mauren and Triesenberg – and their reserve teams – also contest the Liechtensteiner Cup, which the LFV has organised every year since 1946.
Since all these sides play their league football in the Swiss pyramid, the cup is the closest thing to a national championship, albeit with a knockout system. Vaduz have the most cup victories with 42, including 14 in a row from 1998–2011. The winners entered the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup between 1992 and 1999, since when they have proceeded to the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League.
Liechtenstein's senior national team made their debut in a 1-0 defeat by Switzerland in Balzers on 9 March 1982. It was another 12 years before their competitive bow in EURO '96 qualifying: a 4-1 loss to Northern Ireland on 20 April 1994. Daniel Hasler scored the historic consolation goal. Liechtenstein have featured in every subsequent qualification tournament: 1998 FIFA World Cup, UEFA EURO 2000, 2002 World Cup, UEFA EURO 2004, 2006 World Cup, UEFA EURO 2008, 2010 World Cup, UEFA EURO 2012, 2014 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2016. Their best showing was an eight-point haul in their 2006 World Cup attempt, with home and away wins against Luxembourg.
It is at junior level where Liechtenstein have reached a final tournament, qualifying for the UEFA European U16 Championship (now U17s) in Scotland in 1998. The principality's brightest young talents – aged U14, U15, U16 and U18 – participate in the youth development competitions of the Swiss Football Association (SFV-ASF).
Therefore the LFV had much to celebrate on its 75th anniversary in 2009. The association marked the occasion with a glamour friendly against Portugal, followed by a U16 mini-tournament pitting the hosts against Switzerland, Germany and Austria, and a gala evening for the entire football family who continue to go from strength to strength.