Swiss FA official suggests players should drop second nationality

Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Sweden vs Switzerland - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - July 3, 2018 Switzerland's Granit Xhaka looks dejected after the match REUTERS/Henry Romero

ZURICH (Reuters) - A top Swiss football official has suggested that dual citizens should only be allowed to play for the country if they drop their second nationality.

Swiss football federation general secretary Alex Miescher, whose comments are likely to spark fierce debate, said he was worried that players could benefit from Switzerland's youth development programmes only to play for other national teams at senior level.

The Swiss national side, which was eliminated in the second round at the World Cup after a 1-0 defeat to Sweden on Tuesday, draws heavily on second generation immigrants, many from the former Yugoslavia and some from African countries.

The issue was pushed into the spotlight after Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who are ethnic Albanians and of Kosovar heritage, were fined by FIFA for celebrating their goals in the 2-1 win over Serbia with a gesture which appeared to imitate the eagle displayed on Albania’s flag.

"One might have to ask: do we want dual citizens?" said Miescher in an interview with the daily newspaper Tagesanzeiger.

"There should be a plan where players with several nationalities could be tied to the Swiss national team at an early stage. It's an idea that has grown in me....The events with the double eagles have shown that there is a problem."

Players who have represented Switzerland at youth team level but then switched allegiance include Xhaka's brother Taulant, who players for Albania, Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) and Frank Feltscher (Venezuela).

"We hear many promises. And then the player turns 21, and decides for another country, because he sees greater chances for international appearances," said Miescher.

"I find it shocking that we have no leverage there. Such a player has taken away a very valuable, expensive training place....Maybe we could say that the doors to funding programs are open only to junior players who do not have dual citizenship."

He added: "Today, we benefit from the strength of our national team. But if Bosnia, Croatia, Albania and certain African countries were present at a future World Cup, we could have trained many players for other nations."

He also suggested such a rule could make life easier for the players themselves. "It would be liberating for many players if the decision were made earlier," he said.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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