Europa League

UEL: FC Vaduz, The Crown Prince Of Liechtenstein Football

LAUSANNE,SWITZERLAND - APRIL 29: #11 Samuele Campo (FCLS) vies with #10 Gonzalo Zarate (FCV) during the Swiss Super League match between FC Lausanne-Sport and FC Vaduz at Stade Olympique de la Pontaise in Lausanne, on April 29, 2017. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
UEL: FC Vaduz, The Crown Prince Of Liechtenstein Football

You all know the story of AS Monaco FC, the boys from the Principality, Team Kylian Mbappe and friends that have taken France and Europe by storm and have caused their competitors to throw mountains of euros into their coffers in the race to win Mbappe’s signature. You know about their Champions League run and their Ligue 1 road to riches, their first league-winning season in nearly two decades. But did you know that there is a another team representing another principality in another, colder part of Europe?

The team’s name is Fussball Club Vaduz, or FC Vaduz for short. The city? Vaduz, the capital of the principality of Liechtenstein. They are to Liechtenstein as AS Monaco are to Monaco in that they are principality’s main professional football team. That’s where the similarities end. For starters, Liechtenstein has its own national team. Monaco is not even a member of FIFA. Secondly, the financial backing is not as strong. While the owners, like with Monaco, are of royal origin (the Princely Family owns this club, hence the moniker of the Princely Club), Monaco’s main royal owner, Albert Grimaldi (a.k.a. Prince Albert) is an IOC Executive Committee member and the other backer is Dimitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oil tycoon. There are no petrodollars to be seen here at FC Vaduz (we’re looking at you, PSG). The budget is small.

Thirdly, their home stadium, while being the national stadium in the same way that Stade Louis II functions as the national stadium for Monaco, it’s a nonleague-sized park. The Rheinpark Stadion seats only 7,584. Granted, it only opened less than three decades ago back on July 31, 1998, but it’s a pretty small stadium that wouldn’t look out of place in the lower divisions of any self-respecting football nation. And there’s plenty of them. Which leads us to No. 4: a lack of interest in football in Liechtenstein, despite having a national team. All Liechtenstein has is a domestic cup competition that serves as an entry to the UEFA Europa League. The difference is that Monaco does not have any automatic entry to European competition as they are not a FIFA member. AS Monaco is effectively Monaco’s de facto national team, allowing the principality to participate in European competitions as a French side.

FC Vaduz competes in the Swiss leagues. which is reasonable in that they neighbor the said country. Perhaps the Swiss football pyramid itself is superior to Austria’s as well in terms of relative wealth, after all it IS Switzerland we’re talking about, but that’s our speculation and we’ll stick to it. As noted on Back Page Football, just about all of Liechtenstein’s club play in Switzerland anyway.  All seven of them. A similar scenario? Canada’s teams in Major League Soccer, the NASL and USL. There is a domestic league that is sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association called the Canadian Premier League (CPL) but it has yet to go live. For the time being, the Canadian Championship is held to determine who gets the sole Canadian berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Currently, the club plays in the second division of Switzerland. Going back to the domestic cup competition, FC Vaduz are the masters of the Liechtenstein Cup. They have won it a world-record 45 times. That’s right, 45 times. And because the country does not have its own domestic league, Vaduz can never make the Champions League through their national coefficient. But this club has key partners in Young Boys Bern and FC Basel, the same FC Basel is a regular the UEFA Champions League and, just recently, brushed heads with PSG, one of Monaco’s primary rivals.

Since 2001, Vaduz, who were founded on February 14, 1932—Valentine’s Day, that is—have remained in the top two divisions of Swiss football including this season. Their manager, Roland Vrabec, was the manager at FSV Frankfurt until the club was relegated from the 3.Liga and is hoping for a similar case for redemption. So far, the Resident, as they are also known, have had moderate success in the qualifying rounds under their new boss, with their most recent scalp being a 5-1 aggregate win over Welsh side Bala Town in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

While there is no expectation that they will hold the wood over celebrated Norwegian side Odds Ballklubb, the fact that this club has some sort of success in European play can only mean that the case for promotion is strong. Notable players on this year’s side include goalkeeper Peter Jehle, forward Mohamed Coulibaly, defender Axel Borgmann, defender Tomislav Puljic, midfielder Milan Gajic and the captain, midfielder Philipp Muntwiler. There is a strong Liechtenstein contingent but the list still relies heavily on Swiss players. But with this club now being open to players from different places, it now becoming more and more like AS Monaco in terms of its vision. It may not get there yet, but with 45 Liechtenstein Cups including a streak dating back to 2013, two Swiss Promotion League titles and three Swiss Challenge League titles, FC Vaduz will always be the Crown Prince of Liechtenstein Football.

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@joryansalazar

Jo-Ryan Salazar is a writer for The Stoppage Time, a soccer blog powered by Azteca Soccer. A supporter of the Los Angeles Galaxy since 1996 and a committed supporter since 2002, Jo-Ryan also follows Chelsea FC, Melbourne Victory, FC Tokyo and Paris Saint-Germain. Apart from soccer, Jo-Ryan is an administrative assistant for a local nonprofit in Long Beach, California and also does photography, photo-editing and fictional writing.

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