Switzerland's FIFA World Cup-winning coach Dany Ryser told UEFA.com the UEFA European Under-17 Championship provides a unique learning experience for young players.
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One thing Dany Ryser is not lacking is enthusiasm. The man who took Switzerland's Under-17 team to the summit of world football in 2009 generally has a smile on his face, but get him talking about the game, and his passion for the sport knows no bounds.
"Above all, a coach has to love football," said Ryser, who combines his role as Under-15 national team coach with his position as the Swiss FA's director of national teams up to Under-21 level. "A European Championship like this one is a magnificent experience for young players. Of course, we want to win matches, but the experience is the most important aspect of such a tournament. Youngsters can learn a huge amount here."
Ryser, too, has been on a learning curve ever since taking his first job as coach of amateur side FC Biel-Bienne before joining the Swiss FA as head of coach education in 1997. With youngsters' expectations and attitudes having changed throughout his careeer, Ryser has proven a footballing chameleon, smoothly tailoring his approach without ever deviating from the principles on which he based his career.
"Without adapting and progressing, you're not going to last long in the job, but already as a young coach, I had a vision. I said to myself that I really wanted to make that vision a reality in Switzerland," said Ryser, who - influenced by the work of Tord Grip and Roy Hodgson in Switzerland - imagined establishing a philosophy based on "a dynamic brand of football" across all national team categories as well as clear training programs for coaches and players.
"With the success that we've had across all our teams, for me it's an immense source of satisfaction to be able to say this vision is more or less a reality today."
The fruits of that vision have, indeed, been felt with the senior team reaching the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals, the Under-21 side finishing runners-up at their UEFA European Championship the following year, and Ryser's colleague, Heinz Moser, bringing the current crop of Under-17 talents to this season's finals in Slovakia.
Moser's squad, like those of his seven colleagues, no doubt feature players who will make bigger names for themselves, but Ryser sounded a note of caution for all those singled out for praise in Slovakia, having seen some of his 2009 team subsequently struggle to fulfil their potential and others' expectations.
"I say to those players today, 'don't go too far too soon'. Some players after the World Cup win, they didn't have the serenity to do things step-by-step," lamented Ryser, who singled out Mario Götze, a star of the Germany's 2009 UEFA European Under-17 Championship-winning side, as an example to those tempted by attractive offers provoked by eye-catching displays in the finals.
"What was important was that Götze didn't get carried away, he stayed at his club in Germany, and he was lucky to have a coach who wants to work with youngsters. For the moment, he's done everything well. Now he feels he's ready to move to Bayern."
Ryser himself has first-hand experience in the matter. A FIFA World Cup win does not go unnoticed, and while the players are bombarded with head-turning opportunities, the coach too receives his fair share of attention.
"I had quite a few offers, and I thought about it a long time. There were several important factors, the first being I'm a person who, if someone gives me the chance to create something, and I feel they have a lot of respect for me and what I do, I stay," he said. "That doesn't mean that one day I won't be open to something new. For the moment though, I'm really enjoying working in Switzerland, working with the Swiss team."