After contemplating writing about Swiss football for sometime, I was encouraged to do so after hearing a British radio presenter not being able to recall where the team “Young Boys” were based. This occurred during a champion’s league game and this despite the commentator having lived and played in Switzerland.
Men in general have a tendency to commonly use football as a medium for small talk, whether amongst friends, families, colleagues or in business. And football can be a big part of peoples lives across a wide demographic base, but more often than not with expats visiting or residing in Switzerland.
One major observation I made with expats is that affiliations to teams remains strongly linked to their own national teams and leagues. This, rather than re-discovering the sport they love in their new adopted country and even after what can sometimes, be years of residency.
This is a somewhat of a shame as domestic Swiss football has its own soap operas and characters – much the same as anywhere else With some immersion and understanding, it can become just as important as elsewhere and its accessibility can harness stronger community and integration links.
Team names & communities
Some of the Swiss Football team names have less than immediately obvious geographical affiliations, but they could be your local team! Once obvious example is Servette – the main team in Geneva.
More internationally heard of but difficult to place, may be current champions Young Boys from Bern and historically the Swiss team with the most league titles – Grasshoppers from Zurich.
Football romanticists may have heard of Xamax the main team from Neuchâtel. Slightly down the Swiss pyramid, we find the unhelpfully named Red Star (Zurich), Black Stars (Basel) and Blue Stars (Zurich)
Lots of teams seem to have foreign affiliations where clubs have been set up in fairly recent times to represent groups of people who have come to Switzerland to seek asylum or who have relocated here for work.
Some of these were and often are, still used predominantly as a way for a particular community to get together socially. Such team names as YF Juventus (ZH), Italia Nyon, Audax-Friul (NE) as well as several FC Bosna and FC Kosova each in multiple cantons. Etoile Sporting and FC Espagnol are clearly not hiding their Portuguese and Spanish origins as neither do Turksicher SC Solothurn or FC Turc Lausanne.
Getting to a first or second division game is unlikely to be more than a tram or short train ride away. Tickets are usually accessibly priced and easily available on match day. Bigger European games could be harder to obtain and may need to be purchased in blocks (eg. Three group games)
Further down the footballing pyramid, you can probably walk to your local team’s games whether that is in a village or area of town.
These matches are mostly sociable events, which may be free where a drink and a piece of cake or grilled sausage can be shared with a neighbour.
If you are good enough and young enough, then a playing may even become an option even if it becomes an opportunity with a second or third team or the veterans.
And if that is not for you as a hobby then the structure of teams is as such that most teams have multiple youth teams that may appeal to your children from Juniors A (age 17-19) Juniors B (age 15-16) right down to Juniors G (age 5-6). Women are also not omitted with most teams have a first female team as well as junior options too generating a strong female national team at the top of the tree.
The local cup event can draw a lot of interest. The lower league team has home advantage in the draw meaning that there is a good chance of a romantic upset. And if your team can win the local cup then it will qualify the national cup played on the same principle of the lower league team playing with home advantage. Could FC Basel be coming to your village soon ? This type of event is a huge local day with all day festivities and national TV. Not only is success rewarded but winners of fair-play awards also can qualify
Swiss football can have a relateability with the majority of professional players having a salary that can be comprehended by us ordinary mortels and further down the chain it is a hobby that requires considerable training commitments especially when you know the players have to go to work again on Monday morning. Substitutes and players with minor injuries might be called in for linesman duty.
Swiss weather can sometimes be inconducive for football and so at the top level there is a winter break from mid December to mid February. Further down the pyramid at hobby level it is almost a fair weather passtime starting in late August (after the holidays) and finished end October (before the weather gets too bad) and restarting in April (after the bad weather) into late June.
For all your footballing requirements including finding out what pitch your village team under 15s may be playing on it is easy to start with www.football.ch. Highlights and full games can be found on domestic tv as well as on Blue TV.
Got to go the game against the village next door for local bragging rights is starting and there is a Bratwurst with my name on it. And it the game is terrible then the view is usually pretty good.
However you might choose to participate in Swiss Football, it can be an excellent way of integrating into your new community. You will also probably find that the smaller teams are showing the big Manchester or Milan games in their clubhouse anyway.
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