12 Nations – 1 Team? Why Switzerland is not a Football Nation anymore
The Swiss journey to the 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA started with a big bang on September 6th, 2016. Switzerland beat Portugal (Winner of UEFA Euro 2016) in the first Group B game with a smashing 2-0. With only one later loss against the same team, Switzerland qualified for the tournament in a supreme fashion and I was very hopeful that this would be the World Cup where we would go past the round of 16.
Coming out of a semi-strong group in 2nd place, there was only one more match to go to finally reach the 1/4 Finals for the first time since 1954. Our opponent was not Germany or Mexico, as I anticipated early on, it was Sweden. “Sweden? Ohhhhh happy days”!!
Every bookie dealt Switzerland as the favorite to win this game.
To make it short. We lost! The team was NOT mentally prepared and had the worst game plan, ever. One example: Each and every ball into the Swedish box came in high. This meant easy pickings for the team with 185.2 cm average height, the second tallest team behind Serbia.
Motivation, will, faith and a heart on fire. None was present in the red jerseys on the field of Krestovsky Stadium in Petersburg. Neither was it present in the ranks as there were hardly any red jerseys to be seen.
Where was the 12th man of this Swiss Team? Wearing the red jersey and screaming Switzerland to the next Round.
Nowhere to be seen or heard. Neither in the Stadium nor at home in the streets or at Public Viewings, as the below pictures show.
Public Viewing with fans which cannot identify themselves with their team.
Public Viewing with fans that identify themselves with their team.
All trains and trams in Zurich ran on time prior and during the game. Walking through downtown Zurich to meet some Swiss and Swedish friends, I felt lost, wearing my red jersey with the number 13 in front and in the back. I did not see or hear any other Swiss fans, no other red shirts, no beeping, nothing. It was just a regular day. Not so in Bogota during Colombia’s “Round of 16” game vs. England.
The Swiss Public did not identify themselves with this Swiss Team from the time before the World Cup started.
Less than 11’000 tickets to the games were purchased in Switzerland. As a comparison, Island Fans requested 60’000 for their games. The Australian Fans bought 36’000 tickets to see their team play in faraway Russia.
SWISS International Airlines organized a Boeing 777 to St. Petersburg for Swiss Fans to see the “Round of 16” game against Sweden live. The plane left Zurich half empty.
What stands between the Swiss Public and the “Nati”?
- Many Swiss have a MAJOR ISSUE with the “non-Swissness” of the Team. The majority of the best players in Switzerland have an immigration background. Mainly with Balkan and African roots. The Swiss Coach is of Bosnian origin. In a country that has historically been very welcoming to refugees and migrants, such a composition should not surprise anybody, but the Swiss seem to not be willing to accept this fact. To me, it is rather obvious that these young immigrants (supported by their families) are hungrier than Swiss kids and see football as their chance for a successful career. I can not see a reversal of this trend and therefore do not see the 12th man returning any time soon.
- The press and politicians promoting the “non-Swissness” of the Team heavily to bolster their readership and to attract votes. It’s more than just a game in Switzerland!
- Multiple fails to advance past the round of 16. Since 1954, Switzerland has not reached the 1/4 Finals. Therefore, for some Eidgenossen it is easier to not feverishly support the team any more than to get disappointed once again, every time we make it to the World Cup.
- Most Swiss are very disappointed and offended by the “Double Eagle” gesture of some of our players. This used to happen before 2014 a few times but got addressed and it happened again a few days back in the Groupe Stage game against Serbia. Having been in the Stadium myself, seen and heard the provocations from the Serbian fans and players and prior to the game from Serbian officials, I fully support our 3 players and can fully understand their emotional outbreak. This happened during the World Cup but the support for the team was never present, even before. Certainly, it was the reason for many more to turn their back on the team.
For me, I could not care less. I love football. I love Switzerland and its diversity. I love MY talented and diverse team. I love to combine football and travel. I love to sit home, have a beer and watch every game for a month. I love to go out with friends, have a beer and watch every game for a month. I love to discuss the games live over WhatsApp with friends all over the world. I look forward to going to Moscow to see the Semi Final, even MY TEAM will not be walking on the pitch.
It is the best month in 4 years. It is the FIFA World Cup and it is a fantastic one in 2018.
For Switzerland, it was a lost chance to be a Football Nation. It is a pity but hopefully, I can convert a few to come back and support OUR team again.
Maybe we just try to become the Crypto Nation and forget about being a Football Nation. (just kidding)
This is a personal opinion piece with no call to action.