Swiss and Turks to bond before Euro 2008 match


Switzerland and Turkey meet again in Basel on June 11 during the Euro 2008 championships - for the first time since the ugly night in Istanbul in November 2005.

This content was published on April 23, 2008 minutes

That was when players clashed in the tunnel after Switzerland clinched qualification for the 2006 World Cup. Swiss politicians and police are pleading for calm ahead of June's group match in Basel.

"For 90 minutes we will meet as opponents on the pitch. But before and after the match we need to get together and learn from each other," Basel City president Guy Morin told swissinfo.

Some 12,000 people of Turkish origin live in Basel, the majority of whom came to Switzerland from the deprived eastern area of Turkey in the 1980s. Most are Kurds who fled state suppression and economic hardship.

Their relationship with native Basel inhabitants is "perfectly peaceful", said Morin. Some 4,000 Turks have become Swiss citizens and six are members of the cantonal parliament.

One of these is Hasan Kanber, from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, who is looking forward to Euro 2008 as an event to "connect people". Kanber wrote to the Turkish football and cultural associations in the area asking them to set up beds in their clubhouses.

His Aleviten association plans to accommodate travelling Turkish supporters at its centre. "It will be a celebration. And naturally, Swiss people are also welcome," Kanber said.

Morin added that Turkish volunteers would be particularly welcome to help out during the tournament as they would understand the language of the Turkish fans.

"Medium-risk encounter"

A variety of cultural activities are planned before and during Euro 2008 to help integrate the visiting Turkish fans. These include exhibitions, concerts and football games between young Swiss and Turkish players.

A Turkey Day will be staged outside parliament in Bern on May 4, bringing together many aspects of Turkish and Swiss culture. Musicians and dancers from both countries will be complemented by readings of Turkish texts and a photographic exhibition.

Integration, stressing common links and dialogue are important themes of Basel's Euro 2008 security concept. Many Swiss people have unpleasant memories of the World Cup qualifying game in 2005 when Turkish players and security forces mishandled Swiss players.

Swiss player Benjamin Huggel and another member of the Swiss camp were punished for their roles in the violence and Turkey had to play their next six games behind closed doors. "Never again against Turkey," came the message from the Swiss camp.

"The safety arrangements for the match between Switzerland and Turkey are the same for any other game. We are somewhat a Kurdish city," Klaus Mannhart, spokesman for Basel cantonal police told swissinfo.

The match is officially considered a medium-risk encounter. "We can decide at short notice if special measures are necessary," Mannhart added.

The policing strategy for the tournament has a three-tiered approach: dialogue, de-escalation and intervention.

"Theoretically, every match could get out of hand for various reasons," said Mannhart.

swissinfo, Andreas Keiser in Basel

Euro 2008 Basel

Basel expects 250,000 spectators for the six matches at the St Jakob Park stadium, along with 750,000 visitors to the fan zones.

The new St Jakob Park stadium, home of FC Basel, was inaugurated in 2001. It was extended in 2005 to accommodate 42,000 spectators. It is the biggest stadium in Switzerland.

The three Euro 2008 group games to be held in Basel are:
Switzerland vs Czech republic (Saturday, June 7, 6pm)
Switzerland vs Turkey (Wednesday, June 11, 8.45pm)
Switzerland vs Portugal (Sunday, June 15, 8.45pm)

In addition, Basel will host two quarterfinal games on June 19 and 21, both at 8.45pm, and a semi-final on June 25 at 8.45pm.

The city centre will also have a Fan Mile (from the German Badischen train station to Basel's main station), containing two Uefa Fan Zones. Another Fan Zone will be situated in neighbouring Liestal.

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