FC Basel have ended their 22-year wait for championship glory, clinching the Swiss football league title with a comprehensive 3-0 away win over Young Boys Bern.
The club's thumping win cemented their hold on the Swiss title, and also saw Basel become the first team since the introduction of the current league format to win the championship in April.
"There have been expectations on us to win all season," relieved head coach Christian Gross told swissinfo during the dressing room celebrations, "especially after our new stadium was completed so that made things very difficult for us.
"The board and the chairman told me from the outset that they wanted the team back on the top," Gross added. "Now I believe we're at least level with Grasshoppers Zurich and ready to try and pass them."
Wednesday's decisive match was dominated by the Basel front line, with Bern struggling to make an impact.
An 11th minute own goal by Johan Berisha, under pressure from Basel striker Hervé Tum, was followed just seconds later by an unstoppable Tum strike from more than 20 metres out.
Bern then missed some gold-plated opportunities to strike back before a second half goal from South African forward George Koumanatarakis sealed matters.
"I've been here for three years now and it's finally come right," a beaming Koumantarakis told swissinfo afterwards. "After beginning the season with an 8-1 defeat to Sion, this feels fantastic. There's a great bunch of guys here and I think we deserve it."
Koumantarakis knows that his own three year wait pales into significance next to the Basel supporter's own 22-year wait for title glory - all the more painful given the rich history of a club which won six championships between 1967 and 1977.
"Yeah, we've been aware of that," Koumantarakis nodded, "and now we've got the Swiss Cup final coming up, which Basel haven't won for 27 years - so hopefully we can help the fans out with that too."
Beyond Wednesday's league triumph and a possible Cup double lies the hope of participation in the Champions League. As Swiss champions, Basel will be entered in the final qualifying stage for the European tournament and the players are already relishing the challenge.
"I've been surprised by the level of Swiss football since coming here," Australian midfielder Scott Chipperfield said in a break from the celebrations. "We had a good run in the Intertoto Cup at the start of the season, so hopefully we can make it into the Champions League and then see how we go from there."
Fears that the importance of Wednesday's match would create a security risk prompted Bern to boost police and security at their temporary Neufeld home. But those fears, as it turned out, were unfounded. The 11,600-strong crowd was noisy, but generally well behaved.
At the full-time whistle, fans invaded the pitch and kicked off celebrations that ran well into the night and will probably continue right up until the start of next season.
by Mark Ledsom
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