International Centre for
Sports Studies

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2000 Neuchâtel
Tel +41 32 718 39 00


Mon. 15 May 2017

Round Table Event Report : "Players of Balkan origin in Swiss football: A successful integration?"

On 27th April 2017, the second evening organized by the International Centre for Sport Studies (CIES), in collaboration with the Museum of Art and History of Neuchâtel, and within the series of events called Printemps culturel 2017: "Carrefour Sarajevo", was held in front of a large public audience. This was an evening full of new discoveries and fascinating insights.

Nearly sixty people were present to join the discussion which was led by moderator Dr. Raffaele Poli, who is Head of the CIES Football Observatory. He was joined by three personalities with recognized expertise in the area of debate for this special evening event. These were, Edmond Isoz, who is a former director of the Swiss Football League and former European Professional Football Leagues board member, Gérard Castella, who is coach of the Swiss U19 national football team and a former coach of Neuchâtel Xamax and finally, Bashkim Iseni, a doctor in political science, Director of the information platform and a specialist in Balkan diasporas.

For the official opening of the round table, Chantal Lafontant Vallotton, Co-director and Curator of the Museum of Art and History in Neuchâtel began with an excellent parallel between the problematics of integration and the paintings that were represented in the room of the museum which would play host to the round-table talk. Pierre Cornu, President of the Foundation Council of the CIES and judge at the Cantonal Tribunal of Neuchâtel, next welcomed the large gathered audience. He was followed by the General Secretary of the CIES, Vincent Schatzmann, who introduced the programme for the evening and introduced the members of the round-table and their areas of professional expertise.

Following a short introduction of the thematic situation for the discussion, Bashkim Iseni outlined various development paths to help better understand the success of footballers who come from the Balkans. Here he emphasized the importance of sport as not only a tool for integration, but also, the culture of football in this part of the world. Later, Edmond Isoz reminded the audience of the situation in the world of sports in the nineties and explained its evolution. Amongst a wide range of themes discussed, he focussed upon the education of children, the formation of youth and the cultural characteristics of people from the former Yugoslavia, who would go on to play an important role in the integration of footballers into Switzerland.

Gerard Castella next highlighted to the audience that in his view, and based on his experiences, it is clear that no football coach at the top of the Swiss coaching system differentiates between players from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Mr Castella made it clear that only technical and mental qualities counted. However, he felt that there were some particular characteristics developed when facing life challenges. At this point, Gerard Castella considered that players from the Balkans were “fighters” which, based on his idea, played a pivotal role when it came to the successful development of their playing careers.

The last part of the evening was dedicated to questions from the audience. Raffaele Poli opened the debate that contained numerous fascinating questions from the public, such as the integration of young female footballers from the Balkans, the future career paths of players after their playing career has ended and many other questions linked to the earlier debate held by the expert panel.

Finally, Vincent Schatzmann concluded the session by thanking the Museum of Art and History of Neuchâtel, the organisers of the ‘Printemps culturel’ programme, the city of Neuchâtel, and of course, all those who contributed to the organization of this round-table discussion as well as the members of the public who had supported this special evening.

The full event can be watched again online via this link