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Football draws Swiss together

Basel brought the country together - at least for a while

(Keystone)

The national euphoria surrounding FC Basel's success in the European Champions League has done much to bring the Swiss together.

The widespread support for Basel - the first time a Swiss club has come so far in the big league - bridged regional and linguistic divides, says a leading anthropologist.

"Historically, it's one of the rare occasions when the Swiss really came together, as they do in other footballing nations," Fabrizio Sabelli of the University of Neuchâtel told swissinfo.

"And even if Basel is not a national team, it still symbolises Switzerland."

"Football is like a ritual which draws people together emotionally and which has nothing to do with reason or ideology," he continued. "So it's far more potent and emotive than other national symbols, such as the flag. I saw people crying with joy."

Wednesday's press was also rapturous in its reaction to the match.

Not content with splashing superlatives in Basel's colours across its front page, the tabloid "Blick" was so head over heels about the team's showing that it actually printed its top story upside down.

The paper gushed that Basel's manager, Christian Gross, had brought the Swiss happiness at a time when the country was riven by disputes over pensions and health costs.

"Swiss football has come of age," was the generous interpretation of the "Basler Zeitung", which resisted the urge to claim all the credit for the hometown.

Even the British press - no friend of the country's sporting opponents - gave credit to the Swiss team, which matched Liverpool goal for goal in their two encounters.

Gung-ho creativity

The Guardian spoke of Basel's "gung-ho creativity" which had shredded Liverpool's Champions League dreams.

It said the Swiss team's pulsating first-half performance - when Basel scored all their goals - had reduced Liverpool reputations to a small pile of dust.

"[Liverpool's] spirited second-half revival merely papered over a few cracks. Quite how [these] Premiership leaders had been so systematically dismantled by the Swiss champions still seems inexplicable."

The British tabloid the "Sun" was typically forthright, saying said Liverpool had been given the "Swiss of Death".

The Times said Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier had been forced to eat his words after confidently predicting victory prior to the match.

"Houllier cannot escape some of the blame, because he appeared to have been outmanoeuvred by Christian Gross, such a figure of ridicule when he managed Tottenham Hotspur in the 1997-98 season," wrote the paper.

swissinfo

Key facts

Basel secured their place in the second round thanks to a 3-3 draw against English league leaders Liverpool.
The result puts Basel among the top 16 clubs in Europe this season.
Participation in the second round is expected to earn Basel at least SFr10 million.

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