Valon Behrami, Watford’s tearaway midfielder, says he would not turn his back on Switzerland and switch international allegiance to Kosovo even if he could.
Behrami, 31, is a proud Kosovan and has the Kosovan flag tattooed on his right calf and the country’s flag on his left arm. Yet amid the Yugoslav war in 1990 his family were forced to seek refuge in Switzerland and received citizenship in 1997.
Kosovo were accepted as members of Fifa in May and are now trying to qualify for the next World Cup in Russia, but the likes of Behrami, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri cannot switch allegiance at this stage of their career as they have played in an “official competition” at ‘A’ international level for Switzerland.
“There was a lot of rumours about that [me switching to Kosovo] but I always said I would never disrespect Switzerland,” said Behrami in an interview with BBC 3 Counties Geoff Doyle that we sat in on. “People signed [a petition] for me to be allowed to stay [in Switzerland] and then to turn your back [on Switzerland] when your country is settled down is something that will kill me every day in my head. I would like to help Kosovo but not in this way.”
Behrami won his 70th cap for Switzerland on Friday, picking up a booking and an assist as Switzerland won 3-1 away to Hungary to keep Behrami’s personal dream alive.
“It will be my fourth World Cup,” he said. It will also be his sixth major tournament. “I’m the first [player from Switzerland] to play in three World Cups so a fourth would be amazing way to end my international career. I’m focusing on that. I was thinking that this year [was going to be my last], as I wanted to focus more on the club, but I spoke with the president of the FA in Switzerland and they pushed me to keep going for another two years. I need to be fit, that’s the most important thing.”