Women's football in Switzerland
Saturday, July 9, 2022
The new Super League, investment in the Swiss FA's women's football department and a thriving academy for the national team are all reaping rewards.
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Switzerland was an early mover in women's football, launching a national league in 1970 and reinventing it exactly 50 years later as the present Super League. The Swiss national team were also among the first in Europe, though it wasn't until the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup that they reached a final tournament. The recent success of the Switzerland team is matched by progress off the field too, with new sponsors and regular TV coverage for the Super League as new stars emerge to follow in the footsteps of Lara Dickenmann and Ramona Bachmann.
Best UEFA competition performance
Senior: UEFA Women's EURO group stage (2017)
Youth: UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship runners-up (2015)
Women's football pioneer
Former international Béatrice von Siebenthal oversaw the rise of Switzerland's status in women's football during her seven years as national coach from January 2005. She also led the youth teams among many other roles, including setting up and running the national women's football academy – the basis of Switzerland's talent conveyor belt – and working with UEFA and FIFA.
On the pitch…
Switzerland had never reached a final tournament before the 2015 World Cup, when they won a qualifying section including Denmark and Iceland with two games to spare and beat Ecuador 10-1 to get out of their group. In the last 16, they met hosts Canada in front of 53,855 fans in Vancouver and left with their heads held high after a narrow 1-0 loss.
…and off it
The relaunch of the national league as the Women's Super League in 2020 marked a new era for the competition, with unprecedented commercial support and a first live TV deal. That followed the Swiss Football Association (SFV/ASF) setting up a new women's football department and Tatjana Haenni becoming the organisation's first female management board member.
The success of the Swiss women's football academy, initially in Huttwil and since 2013 in Biel/Bienne, has ensured a regular supply of top talents to the ever-improving national team, from Ramona Bachmann in the early days to emerging stars such as Malin Gut. That the Switzerland squad in England contains players at clubs like Barcelona, Arsenal, Eintracht Frankfurt and Paris Saint-Germain shows exactly how sought after they are.
Here and now
Junior/senior: Playing perspectives
Midfielder Riola Xhemaili is just 19 and is preparing for her senior international tournament debut, while in contrast, 31-year-old forward Ana-Maria Crnogorčević has spent the majority of her club career in Frankfurt, Portland and since 2019, Barcelona. She is a two-time UEFA Women's Champions League winner with more than 130 international caps to her name since her debut in 2009.
The pair discuss their early days in the game and exchange thoughts and advice on life at the top of the game.
Xhemaili: "I have had this one question on my mind for a week now. How does the night before your first game in the EURO feel?"
Crnogorčević: "The first night is a little special. I have to think back a bit to 2017, but we had been together for two weeks and were about to be for two more. You are together for four or five weeks and having trained a lot, the big day is finally here. I would say, you will be laying in your bed thinking about what you have done over the past four weeks. Sometimes you’ll be questioning, ‘Have I done enough? Have I done everything that I can?’. All the hard work and exhausting training sessions will be worth it. There is always some excitement about the fact that it is finally starting, combined with some nerves, but that is completely normal."
Joining the game in Switzerland
Are you interested in playing women's football?
Find out how to play where you are with the help of #WePlayStrong.
"Trailblazers" is a unique exhibition that showcases the work of European artists given a blank canvas to celebrate women’s football. UEFA invited artists from participating nations in this summer’s tournament to create an image inspired by the game in their country. Switzerland's representative is Marilou Briner: "I chose to work around the Swiss flag, almost by instinct. I wanted to do a bold and graphic artwork, in order to really make some impact. Therefore, the Swiss cross was a great way to conceptualise our nation and how women have managed to stand out in it, claiming their freedom, breaking down stereotypes and barriers to make their own way to the top. Also, the red made so much sense to accentuate the fierceness and energy of women owning their place in the football world. This project really motivated be to follow with great attention the Women's EURO and support our fabulous Swiss team all the way to the win!"
Investing for the future
Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP)
Since 2010, UEFA's WFDP has provided associations with funding and tools to increase participation, improve standards and build infrastructure to help keep the female game growing. One example of a project funded by the WFDP programme in Switzerland is…
Improved elite player development in a professionalised environment (2018–20)
The SFV/ASF goal was to improve the environment for senior women's national team players and offer elite player development, using additional staff and individual support and also increasing the percentage of professional staff compared to volunteers.
As a result, the number of women's senior national team staff members who were employees rose by 200%, while players received dedicated and focused support for their health and development on and off the pitch. This focus on individual and team development led to better players, with Malin Gut – who also received support from Footura, a non-profit organisation that promotes sport – earning selection by the senior national side.