At 31, the Ticino man did not expect to be called up to the Swiss team. To the point that he had to cancel his vacation.
- by means of
- Valentin Schnorhk
†Bad Ragaz (SG)†
Tickets to Greece had been booked for a while. Reservations stalled. But the plane took off without Mattia Bottani. Deferred holidays. For the good cause. The Hellenic beaches come after Bad Ragaz and its tranquility. “It’s better to be here,” laughed de Ticino on Thursday. At the age of 31, he is living his dream: he joined the Swiss team for the four Nations League matches (in the Czech Republic, Portugal, against Spain and Portugal) for which Murat Yakin called him up. †
Bottani had obviously not expected this. Until the message of Vincent Cavin (Yakin’s assistant, who has known him for years), prior to the coach’s phone call. “I was ready to go on vacation,” he smiles. But it might be even nicer that way, after all this time. Because the train must have passed long ago. The Luganese has been part of the Swiss football landscape for over a decade: almost always in Bianconero, except for a freelancer at Wil, in 2016-2017. Never really thought about it, even younger: he only has two rosters for the Swiss U18 team and has nothing else to show for him.
The child of a canton
But in Ticino he has a different status: he is the local boy. The ones we know, the ones we’ve watched grow up. “I’ve had a difficult journey, with ups and downs,” he recalls. As a person, as a player it has done me a lot of good and this selection is kind of the icing on the cake after a difficult career.
Bottani is also the one who missed a penalty one day in 2016 in the Swiss Cup final (lost to Lugano against Zurich). And especially the one who avenged his past ten days ago, contributing to the Swiss Cup victory for his lifelong club (4-1 against Saint-Gall, with one goal). In line with a consistent season, with five goals and six assists in the Super League, but above all with a staggering ability to make a difference.
Something has changed. “He made a leap in personality and volume of play,” notes Pierluigi Tami, who trained him in Lugano in 2017-18. However, technically it is still just as good. The rift could be deeper. It relates to everyday life. The bullshit of the past, “You better not talk about it”, he laughs. Yet there is one observation: “Botta” already hurts a little less.
“Over time you learn to manage your body a bit better, just like your private life, confirms the playmaker. In recent months I have found some stability.” These are things that allow you to be better on the pitch. And then his trainer Mattia Croci-Torti directs him, even if that means he has to skip a few training sessions. †Crus has known me for so long, of course he has a role in this development, adds Bottani. Although in practice I do not believe that there have been so many changes. Maybe I’m more confident. I always want the ball, I have fun with it.”
He hardly knows anyone
That is why he was chosen. For its ability to grab the ball and make a difference with it, thanks to its flexible and fast ball handling. His profile is rare among the Swiss team. More special than that of his lifelong friend Antonio Marchesano (who led Zurich to the title and whose performances could very well have opened the doors of the roster for him).
So it was he who chose Yakin. So on Thursday, Mattia Bottani arrived in Bad Ragaz with the boy’s attitude that has yet to get used to the context. Nothing is really familiar. But he is enjoying the moment. With modesty: “I especially hope to take advantage of the coming days to learn from all these great players. The goal is to help the team.”
What can he bring her? “Nice hair!” he laughs. They have been tinted light pink since the cup final. Result of a bet with members of FC Lugano. “If I had known that I would come as a Swiss team, I might not have done that”. This makes the memory even more special. And maybe a way to make it even easier to integrate.
Because Bottani is such a surprising guest that he hardly knows anyone from the current squad. “Except for Gavranovic, who is from Ticino, I just played with Shaqiri and Zuber in the U18, but I don’t know them well. I will have time to get to know everyone.” Greece is already far away.