Why Henchoz is wrong to say that Xhaka shouldn’t captain Switzerland

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Xhaka wearing the armband in the past, just six months ago in a friendly against Panama. (Getty Images)

I recently saw an article from Swiss newspaper Blick, who did an interview with former Swiss international Stéphane Henchoz. The underline of it was that he didn’t believe current Swiss international Granit Xhaka deserves to be the national team captain in the future. I was disgusted to see this, and I completely disagree with Henchoz.

The question arose after a discussion of the possibility of current captain Stephan Lichtsteiner not playing in the upcoming games. It is not known for sure if he will keep his starting place.

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The headline from the original interview with Henchoz, published by a well-known Swiss newspaper. (Blick)

The title of the original interview translated into English is “Granit Xhaka does not represent Switzerland!” In the interview, the former Liverpool player is asked about the captaincy, and said that he would prefer goalkeeper Yann Sommer to Xhaka. When asked what is wrong with the 25 year-old, he said, “I believe the captain must represent the Swiss team and Switzerland. Xhaka doesn’t.” He also expressed his displease at the midfielder not singing the anthem before games.

I do however agree with Henchoz’s comments about singing the national anthem. I always prefer to see the players singing it, because they’re representing their nation; singing the national anthem shows passion and pride in representing your country. Nevertheless, he seems to be more infuriated about the fact that Xhaka has Albanian roots, leading to Henchoz believing that he doesn’t deserve the captaincy.

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Xhaka pictured doing his controversial celebration at this summer’s World Cup, after he scored a fantastic goal against Serbia. (Getty Images)

The fact that Henchoz, who was capped 74 times for Switzerland, thinks that just because Xhaka isn’t 100% Swiss he doesn’t deserve to wear the captain’s armband is absurd. He said that the problem existed because it would cause divide within Swiss fans and players who are fully Swiss. How ridiculous is this? I struggle to respect a man who is so naïve and ignorant, it is absolutely disgraceful.

I 100% support Granit Xhaka, and am definitely siding with him in this situation. As someone who has two other nationalities as well as Swiss, I feel extremely represented by the Swiss national team. The fact that despite myself and dozens of players having more than one nationality, we are all united by Switzerland. I am able to connect to the national team, knowing that so many players share my nationality situation.

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Granit Xhaka (L) pictured next to Stéphane Henchoz (R), both shown representing Switzerland. (Source N/A)

In a time where the majority of the Switzerland squad holds dual nationality, this is utterly ridiculous. Henchoz seems to be thinking from a nationalistic perspective, where he only wants players who have nothing other than Swiss heritage to be representing the national team.

“This would be a real problem,” said Henchoz. “Players like Yann Sommer, Stephan Lichtsteiner or Fabian Schär, who represent traditional Switzerland, could feel excluded just like fans who might not be able to identify with the team. The Swiss players without a migration background and Swiss fans, they would feel marginalised.”

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Xhaka listening to Switzerland manager Vladimir Petković in a recent training session. (Granit Xhaka’s Instagram)

Xhaka has captained Switzerland before, most recently in a 6-0 friendly win against Panama six months ago. He has represented Switzerland 66 times, scoring 10 goals. He has served the national team with pride for seven years, and shows such dedication. Xhaka is an example, he deserves to bear the captain’s armband for Switzerland, not this ignorant criticism from Henchoz.

Switzerland play their next game tomorrow, in their inaugural UEFA Nations League match against Iceland, before a friendly against England in Leicester. Xhaka has been named in the squad, and is likely to be a starter in both games.

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