It isn't every day your Geography teacher has to go away for a few da
Exclusive: It isn't every day your Geography teacher has to go away for a few days to mark David Beckham in a big international. But that is how life is for the Liechtenstein team, as midfielder Frederic Gigon tells TheFA.com
Geography teacher Frederic Gigon is grateful his headmaster is allowing him a few days off to study for David Beckham.
Gigon cut class on Tuesday to join up with the rest of the Liechtenstein team and prepare to mark the most famous footballer on the planet.
"All the children have said they want me to get Beckham's autograph and I should bring his shirt in when I get back to school. It is a complete dream," admits the star-struck 30-year-old.
"I am glad my headmaster has allowed me time off to play against England and Slovakia the following week. I had to leave my last school because they didn't understand. It was always a big hassle to go away for a few days for the international matches.
"This match has made me a celebrity at school. The teachers bow as a joke when I walk by and one kid came in and said he played as Liechtenstein against England on Playstation. Unfortunately, he said England won 7-0 and Beckham got three goals!"
Gigon, who was brought up in neighbouring Switzerland and also has a Swiss passport, was your average overweight park footballer four years ago when Liechtenstein coach Ralf Loose called to offer him the unlikeliest international career in history.
"I thought it was a hoax phone call. I guessed they were friends making a joke so I kept telling them to go away," says the left-sided midfielder, who teaches classes aged between 12 and 16 at the Arnold Reymande College in Lausanne.
"I was living in Berlin at the time and had only just got Liechtenstein citizenship through my grandmother because it helped me avoid paying for a residents' fee to stay in Germany.
"My cousin from Liechtenstein told the coach and he was so short of players he rang to invite me to a training session. I was only playing for a park team and eating too many German sausages in my spare time. But when I realised he was serious I started losing weight. Three months later I was playing against Hungary. It was amazing."
Since his debut in 1999, Gigon has been a regular and helped the Liechtensteiners to honourable draws against Hungary, Northern Ireland and Macedonia.
He currently plays for amateur club Lausanne Sports in the Swiss Third Division but knows his hardest task on Saturday could be swapping shirts with Beckham.
"There is going to be a fight among our players but I think I am favourite because he will be next to me on the field," he says. "One of our players Gresler says he will go up to Beckham and try to arrange the shirt before the match so I will have to be on my toes. Even the goalkeeper Peter Jehle who always swaps with other goalkeepers says Beckham is a God and that is the shirt he wants.
"I am quite good I think at getting the important shirts. When we played Spain I asked Mendieta at a corner kick if I could swap shirts with him after the match and he said no problem. Hagi wasn't so nice - three of our players asked him for his shirt and he told all of them go away!
"England have everything to lose in this game - we can see it only as a challenge. If we lose 2-0, it will be like a victory for us and a bad result for them."
Frederic Gigon was talking to Joe Bernstein
LIECHTENSTEIN v ENGLAND
SATURDAY MARCH 29th
EURO 2004 QUALIFIER IN VADUZ