Stephan Lichtsteiner (35) is a defender at Arsenal London and has already reached the Champions League final. He has developed from a U-15 talent to a Swiss football legend and is one of the most valuable players of the Swiss national team.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, you played on Swiss junior teams, ranging from U-15 to U-21, in a total of 63 matches. Do you remember the first time you wore the national team’s uniform?
I don’t remember the opponent or the final score. I just remember how thrilled I was to be on the team. And that I wasn’t surprised. Even as a child, I never doubted for a second that I would have a professional career.
You were involved in the Swiss Football Association’s Footuro program for potential senior national team players. How did that individualized support help you?
With the Footuro program’s medical and performance assessments, I always knew where I stood. So I could work on my weaknesses by doing targeted strength exercises, laying the foundation for a long career.
You completed a commercial apprenticeship at Credit Suisse. Is it still possible to combine an apprenticeship with high-level sports?
Absolutely. It’s just a matter of self-discipline. I learned valuable life lessons, and would definitely recommend that path.
People say that the outcome of a football match is decided in players’ heads. Should mental training be part of a footballer’s training, or is that just psychobabble?
To be quite honest, I don’t think that mental toughness is something you can learn. Either you have it or you don’t. Media training, on the other hand, can be very helpful.
How do you stay grounded?
You have to avoid being surrounded by people who are constantly patting you on the back and telling you how wonderful you are. You need to have good friends and a family who will occasionally say, “Hey, Stephan, get a grip.”
You moved to Lille when you were 21. When do you know it’s time to move abroad?
When you’ve done well in the Super League and managed to weather at least one crisis. And it’s important for the coach to really want you. Because no one abroad is waiting for you.
Football is perceived to be a ruthless business. As a talented young player, do you need an agent?
Yes, since your parents don’t know the rules of the industry. It’s more than they can handle. Luckily for me, my brother is an agent. I can be confident that he’s thinking about what’s best for my career and not about his own financial gain.