Matthias Voigt’s job is not easy. As President of the Liechtenstein Football Association he must create and develop a footballing pyramid that contains just 1,900 registered players, out of a possible pool of 35,000 inhabitants. Not only must he create a footballing community, but must always endeavour to produce an international side that can compete against their European rivals whom benefit from much larger populations and staggeringly higher finances. Yet, over the past year, and particularly the past decade, Liechtenstein has become a much more competitive beast. Underdog victories don’t come as often as the FA Cup has led us to believe, especially at international level, but Voigt’s work made them appear more likely for Liechtenstein.
This year has already brought with it some brilliant results, such as 1-1 draws with Latvia and Slovakia, and close losses to Croatia (2-3) and Greece (0-1). How pleased have you been with the national team’s recent performances?
We are very pleased about that performance. In fact the recent development underlines the continuity of the work during the last 9 months which has been done by our coaches and staff. It seems to be the right way and we will certainly continue in that direction despite the possibilities of setbacks in the one or other way.
Players like Peter Jehle, Martin Stocklasa, Mario Frick and Thomas Beck have either achieved or are close to earning 100 caps. How important are these players to the process of bringing through the next generation of footballers?
All those players are very important for the development of the next generation. Our young players need and deserve assistance and support to gain experience. We are in the lucky situation that we have a very good mix of young and experienced players as well as personalities.
This month’s UEFA Executive Committee meeting will discuss the possibility of bringing in a pre-qualifying tournament for Europe’s lowest ranked countries, the winner being allowed to take part in World Cup and European Championship qualifying. What is your position on the topic and why?
A pre-qualification is an absolute no-go. That not only for us but for almost all small and midsized countries. We need the competition with bigger countries in the sense of further development of our skills. Also important is the economic situation in the sense of marketing and television. UEFA up to now was based on a platform of solidarity between small and big members. That should not be changed in the sense of the football in general and of course in the sense of millions of young players.
What is your FA doing to ensure there is a successful future for football in Liechtenstein?
We work very hard and remain ready to further optimise our local structures. We created a bottom up approach in order to support our clubs/members and all junior teams to support talents and to help them to go their way as high or far as possible. We will work on quality and continuity.
What are the long term goals and expectations for the national team?
To continuously improve our performances within the given frame work.
Liechtenstein has a female football division but no national team. Are there any plans for one?
As mentioned before we follow a bottom up approach. That means that we working hard to attract football to the junior girls and also supporting the different club teams. Once in a while we will then eventually get a women’s team. If you look at the Liechtenstein population one can imagine that it may take some time. We work definitely continuously on this subject. In other words: our female football division is quite busy.
Published in permission with Callum Farrell