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Crimson tide washes over Germany

Football fans Robert Siegrist and Marco Rodrigo travelled to Germany on their motorbikes to follow the Swiss team swissinfo.ch

swissinfo catches up with a cast of diehard fans at the Swiss team's base in Bad Bertrich and in Dortmund where they beat Togo 2-0 on Monday.

This content was published on June 20, 2006 - 14:37

Some have arrived for the World Cup in style after buying executive packages while others have turned up without tickets and accommodation, but with plenty of passion and patriotism.

Lawyer Robert Siegrist and estate agent Marco Rodrigo forked out SFr10,000 ($8,058) each for their "Follow My Team" package that came complete with tickets all the way to the final. In the event that Switzerland get knocked out, the pair will follow the team's conquerors.

Not content with bus, train or plane the duo travelled from Zurich to Germany on their Harley Davidson and Honda motorcycles, resplendently repainted with the red and white crosses of Switzerland.

An airbrushed World Cup trophy on each bike and helmets painted for the occasion add the finishing touches to their ensemble. An image of Swiss goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler adorns Siegrist's Harley.

"We are good friends because I used to advise him on legal matters early in his career," he told swissinfo.

"I dedicated many years of my life to sport when I was coach of the national judo team so I thought I would get something out of sport by taking a sabbatical to follow the football team around Germany."

Rodrigo, 44, estimated the pair would cover some 6,000kms on a motorbike tour that will, like the two team finalists, eventually lead to Berlin.

"I am a fan of Grasshoppers Zurich and while I am not pleased that [Ricardo] Cabanas moved to Cologne I hope he performs well for the national team," he said.

Not every fan is travelling in luxury and many have come without knowing how they would get into the stadium or even where they would spend the night.

Sleep in car

Friends Adrienne, Benedict, Sandro and Matthias from Zurich slept in their car at the side of the road as they travelled from Switzerland to Dortmund.

"We don't have any hotel rooms booked but that doesn't matter because we are going to party, not sleep tonight," Matthias said after Switzerland beat Togo.

Patrick from Biel also arrived with his wife and two young children without a bed for the night, but made up for this shortcoming by sleeping in a temporary tented camp situated just outside Dortmund.

"We had the place virtually to ourselves because no-one seemed to know about it," he said. "The atmosphere in Dortmund has been incredible for the last two days. There are so many Swiss fans here it could almost be home," Patrick said.

Thousands of Swiss fans have travelled from all over the world to support the team's World Cup campaign.

Barry Battey and James Fernandes made the trip from Monterey Bay in California to follow not only Switzerland but three other teams as well. Both follow the US team while Battey, who was born in Wembley, London, which houses England's national stadium, also has an eye on David Beckham and company.

In addition, Fernandes supports Portugal, the land of his ancestors. But why Switzerland?

Fourth World Cup

"We just enjoy watching good football and we like the way the Swiss play. They also have some great supporters so we thought we would tag along, but we don't have a ticket yet," said Battey.

This is the fourth World Cup the men have attended since 1986, missing only the trip to Italy in 1990.

One set of supporters hoping that Switzerland does not play against the US is the Widmer family, who travelled from Zurich to see the Swiss side in Dortmund.

Father Michael, 15-year-old daughter Florence and son Philip, 13, are firm Swiss rooters but mother Debra is an American expatriate.

"I hope for the sake of family harmony Switzerland and America don't meet each other," she said. "I can't say which way my loyalties would go if that were to happen."

Swiss supporters were in fine voice in both the first two group games, easily making up the majority of the crowd in both stadiums.

The level of support has impressed Swiss coach Köbi Kuhn who thanked the fans in Dortmund.

"It was extraordinary to play in a stadium filled with red shirts in Dortmund, of all places," he said after Switzerland beat Togo.

"It triggered an enormous enthusiasm in the team from the moment we arrived here. I know the fans support us so passionately not just because we have had success but also because the players are seen giving everything for their country."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Bad Bertrich and Dortmund

In brief

An estimated 35,000 Swiss fans watched Switzerland take on France in their opening World Cup game in the 52,000-seater Gottlieb-Daimler stadium in Stuttgart. The same number of fans arrived without tickets and had to make do with watching the game on a big screen in the town square.

Some 50,000 Swiss fans made up the vast majority of the crowd at the 65,000-seater Westfalen stadium in Dortmund on Monday. There were many more fans in Dortmund without tickets.

Police in Hanover have warned Swiss supporters to behave or face severe consequences after 50 rowdy Zurich Grasshoppers fans were arrested during trouble at a "friendly" fixture against local side Hanover 96 in January. Switzerland take on South Korea for their last group game in the city on Friday.

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Key facts

The Swiss national team is based in Bad Bertrich. Their group games were scheduled for Stuttgart, Dortmund and Hanover.
If they qualify from Group G the team will then play in their first knockout match in either Cologne or Hanover.

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