Switzerland has discovered a new love of football following FC Basel's qualification for the second round of the European Champions League.This content was published on November 13, 2002 - 11:05
Wednesday's press reaction to Basel's 3-3 draw against Liverpool was understandably euphoric, given that it's the first time a Swiss club has come so far in the big league.
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 quality papers let the photographs tell much of the story, under headlines such as "makes history" and "simply sensational".
Football has long been a passion for the people of Basel, but the team's steady progress in the Champions League has gradually captured the attention of the wider public.
"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.
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".
"Despite the late heroics, you will have to go back some way to discover an English club so outplayed in an opening half by European opposition who, on paper, should have been blown away."
The Times said Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier had been forced to eat his words after confidently predicting victory prior to the match.
It wrote that his side had been torn apart by a team of pace and invention, and that the second-half fight-back had been "too little too late".
"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.
Gross, naturally, is Switzerland's hero of the hour. "Bravo, Christian Gross," wrote the Blick. "He has reached historic dimensions."
The paper gushed that Basel's manager had brought the Swiss happiness at a time when the country was riven by disputes over pensions and health costs.
Imagine if Basel had won.
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