The Azerbaijan-based central defender has an interesting story – here I put the onus on the Dominican Republic international’s European career…
Heinz Barmlettler comes from an interesting background. Born in Zurich, Switzerland to a Swiss father and mother from Dominican Republic – he’s not your average case. Not at all.
Growing up in Switzerland it was there where he learned his footballing education and in 1993 he joined FC Blue Stars Zurich – who play in the sixth tier of Swiss football.
In the six years at the club, he made steady progress and by 1999 he was snapped up by the Grasshopper – a popular well-known team in Switzerland who have 26 titles to their name.
Make no mistake: this was a hugely important move for Barmlettler. Earning a transfer to such a well-respected and highly thought of club at the tender age of just 12 (you read that right) was something very momentous.
Juggling studies with football isn’t easy, understandably, but Barmlettler coped well and by the 2005-2006 season he was making regular appearances for the Grasshopper B team.
In that campaign, he clocked up a total of 28 appearances and scored six times – which for a defender is highly impressive.
Barmlettler was just 12 years old when he moved to Grasshopper; it was a hugely important move
No surprise then, that it was equally as well respected club FC Zürich ( rivals of Grasshopper and 12 time winners of the Swiss Super League) who came knocking on the door at the end of that season.
Things were slowly but surely starting to materialise for Barmlettler who was clearly hitting all the right notes with such big, notorious clubs chasing his signature.
His first season with FC Zürich was a magical and indeed very successful one. He helped the team clinch the 2006-2007 Swiss Championship – which before the previous season they hadn’t won for 25 years.
His first taste of silverware and Bernard Challandes, the manager at the time, was influential in pioneering Zürich’s dominance that year.
It was all happening so quickly for Barmlettler, who was just over the moon at how far he had developed and the fact he was being picked for the first-team.
Fast forward six years, and the player has over 60 appearances for FC Zürich emphasising the extent of his contributions.
In the mist of it all, he had been fortunate enough to win another domestic title in 2009 and feature in both the Champions League qualifying rounds and group stage of the Europa League in 2007-2008.
He has experience in both the Champions League qualifying rounds and Europa League group stages
But in the summer of 2012 came a new chapter in Barmlettler’s European adventure. Zürich were looking to offload some faces and recruit in fresh players: leaving the 25-year-old on the verge of an exit.
But where to? In July, he penned a two-year deal with a rather under-the-radar club in Azerbaijan’s Inter Baku. Barmlettler knew very little of them, and by all accounts they knew very little of him. But it offered a fresh outlook on life, a unfamiliar environment and a challenge in a new culture and league.
With 11 rounds played in this season’s Azerbaijan Premier League, Inter Baku summit the league table and look set to finish the year off in style.
The no.87 has only featured in two of those 11 matches so far, but an injury collected in the early stages of the term has hampered his chances of breaking into the first team.
Despite not getting regular starts, he’s mainly being used as a utility player who can also slot in midfield. He seems content enough, and it’s important he becomes settled after having spent such a long time in Switzerland.
In terms of playing for his country, he has nine under-21 caps and one single senior cap for Switzerland (which was a friendly in 2009) but as recently as 2012 Barmettler chose to change his FIFA nationality into Dominican Republic.
Moving to Azerbaijan offers a new outlook on life, a fresh start and chance to become familar with a new culture
Obviously, because of his mother he can do this and he has seven caps for the nation who are ranked 92nd in the FIFA World Rankings. In fact, he captains the side and is seen as a pivotal figure in sustaining their recent success.
Dominican Republic have excelled in the latest qualifying for the Caribbean Cup which is set to be staged in Antigua & Barbuda. The team, led by Barmlettler, secured progression to the final round of qualifying in late October topping their group with seven points.
Speedy, laboured, strong in the tackle and a cool customer – Heinz Barmlettler has come a long, long way since his days in Switzerland as a youngster. Now he’s hungry to replicate his past success in Azerbaijan.
By Nathan Carr