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Dominant Basel crowned champions

Thousands of fans celebrated in Basel on Sunday night Keystone

Runaway leaders FC Basel have clinched their tenth football championship title, with a 2-0 away win over FC Thun.

This content was published on May 2, 2004 - 19:13

Unbeaten and holding a 14-point lead going into the second half of the season, Basel were always favourites to regain the crown they relinquished to Grasshoppers Zurich last year.

"I'm as happy as if this was the first title. Every championship has its own history," goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler told the newspaper "20 Minutes".

Dominant right from the start of the season in July, Basel didn’t drop a point until a 2-2 draw away to FC Aarau in October.

The previous 12 games had seen them dispatch all other pretenders, scoring 43 goals in the process.

Even great rivals Grasshoppers were powerless to stop the Basel juggernaut, losing 4-0 and 5-2 in their first two Super League encounters.

The mid-season break saw two of the club’s stars - Swiss internationals Hakan Yakin and Marco Streller - move to German club Stuttgart.

But it wasn’t until mid-March that the team suffered their first loss, away to FC Zurich (1-0), ending their 23-match unbeaten streak.

Injuries

Long-term injuries to club captain Murat Yakin and striker Christian Gimenez weakened the side, but not enough to stop Basel wrapping up the championship with four games to go.

However, success on the domestic front - notwithstanding an unexpected Swiss Cup quarter-final exit - was tempered by the failure to progress in the Uefa Cup.

A second-round defeat at the hands of Britain’s Newcastle United once again highlighted the need to bolster the squad if a meaningful European challenge is to be mounted.

Champions League

The Swiss champions will now enter the qualifying stages of the Champions League – a competition they excelled in two seasons ago when they upset the likes of Glasgow Celtic, Liverpool and Italian giants, Juventus.

The club’s vice-president, Gigi Oeri, has already stated that cash is available for bringing in new faces, with Swiss internationals Alex Frei and Patrick Müller reported to be on the club’s wish list.

This year’s championship crown is Christian Gross’s fourth Swiss title, on top of the four Swiss Cups already nestling in his trophy cabinet.

Gross, who “enjoyed” a short spell at London’s Tottenham Hotspur in the late 1990s, is known to be coveted in neighbouring Germany.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Young Boys have clinched the second, lucrative Champions League spot.

The Swiss Football League lifted restrictions on the number of foreign players allowed in a team as of January 1.

Switzerland’s top division was trimmed down this season from 12 clubs to ten.

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