BSC Young Boys v FC Luzern


17th SEPTEMBER 2011



The Wankdorf was the venue for one of the most historically significant games in FIFA World Cup history. 

On Independence Day 1954 almost 55,000 watched West Germany defeat the magical Magyars of Ferenc Puskas 3-2 – The Miracle of Bern (Das Wunder von Bern).

The victory for the Germans was extra significant in so many ways. This was a side representing a broken nation given defeat in WWII some nine years before.

The win meanwhile came against a side that had previously been unbeaten for over 4 years.  It was a result which played a symbolic role in the restructuring of the German national sporting spirit.

Whilst Switzerland is home to the administrative divisions of the global game, international finals tournaments have been thin on the ground for the Swiss since 1954.  The Swiss bid for the 1998 FIFA World Cup which proved unsuccessful given the superior bid of the French.

It was not until 2008 that they were able to host an event when they were hosts to the European Championships alongside neighboring Austria.

Berne had been awarded the 1989 European Cup Winners Cup Final in surprising circumstances. 

The original venue had been the stadium in Lausanne.  When both Barcelona and Sampdoria qualified for the final UEFA decided to switch the game to Berne.  At the time the stadium only had 9,300 seats and had changed very little in shape or form since 1954.

As it turned out the game witnessed a significant amount of incidents with poor segregation leading to trouble between the travelling Italian and Barcelona fans.

Despite the two administrative powerhouses of the game being based in Switzerland stadium infrastructure in Switzerland had been in dire need of upgrade for sometime.  Stadia that had been central to the 1954 event such as the Hardturm in Zurich and the St.Jakob in Basel were unfit for international tournament purposes for many years.

Late in 2003 the Swiss were awarded the 2008 European Championships. National and local political structures had realised it was time that the needs of international football were reconciled with the requirements of Switzerland’s own domestic game.

The need to invest proved to be a difficult question for the Swiss government given the sporting traditions of the country towards winter sports. Moreover, a conservative insular state of mind often pervades the international psyche of the Swiss and large scale investment in such an event was unpopular amongst many community governance structures. 

Politically public spend is a hot topic in Switzerland given that many issues need to be voted on and passed by local referendums. It is not a country where football is woven deep into the social fabric of societal change.

Stade de Suisse

The Stade de Suisse was built on the grounds of the former Wankdorf Stadium which had been demolished in 2001. The new stadium has a capacity of 32,000 spectators and aside from one standing area it is an all seated stadium.  

It hosted a few fixtures during the European Championships including those of the Dutch national team.

Integrated into the roof are solar panels and below the stands are a gym, access points, restaurants and conference rooms.   The modern day stadium is the culmination of plans that were laid out back in 1989 for the Wankdorf to be redeveloped into a modern office, commercial and sporting space.

Swiss Super League

The Swiss Super League is the top tier of the football system in Switzerland.  The league format changes shape regularly and the numbers of competing teams has been adjusted on several occasions.  The current format is a top league of 10 teams with relegation to the second tier Challenge League.  

Servette Geneva were promoted to the Swiss Super league at the end of last season after a period of financial and footballing turmoil.

Swiss team performances in UEFA European competitions have improved greatly over recent seasons most significantly since 1994. FC Basel have performed consistently well in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup and Europa League taking a number of famous scalps.  The current season (2011-2012) has seen FC Luzern start the season strongly and lead the table in its early stages ahead of BSC Young Boys.

On a Sunday afternoon in Berne there is, to be honest, not too much happening.  Berne’s historical city centre is almost deserted mid morning.  Retail shopping plays a large role in Berne but on a Sunday everything feels closed for business.

It’s almost 12noon, four hours before kick-off, before a yellow and black scarf is seen. The next few hours see home supporters arrive in the city for the big game due later that afternoon.  Its mid-afternoon before the many bars begin to open for business.

Two hours before kick off and the train station is a thriving and bustling mass of supporters.

Near the Zytglogge bell tower in the city centre fans queue for the tram service to the stadium.

Outside the ground fans sit drinking around countless open air bars and supporters of both teams mingle freely. Tickets for the game are easy to come by via numerous ticket desks. All offer a good service and advice on the areas of the ground which are accessible.

Switzerland is a very expensive country but there are benefits to this for all.  

Berne offers a very high quality of life to its residents and workers.  Match tickets for football matches in Berne are no different in terms of expense with tickets priced from 30 CH to 60 CH.  With around 1.27 Swiss Francs to £1 its clear football in Switzerland compared to neighboring Germany is a little more expensive.

Low alcohol Beer is available within the stadium and can be taken to a seat by fans.  The experience within the stadia is strikingly similar to that offered in the Bundesliga with one area behind the goal being allocated to hard core home fans who are able to stand and create choreographed displays of colour. 

The areas behind each goal are netted and stewards operate behind the fences which separate the seating areas from the pitch.

There is no intimidatory police or stewarding presence and as a result a good mix of color and intense crowd engagement is allowed to flourish.

As the teams emerge the match stadium announcer starts proceedings.  

FC Luzern have taken a travelling support of around 1,000 to the game and they add to the color and noise inside the stadium in its early stages. Led by one half of the famous Yakin brothers Luzern look good bets for a league challenge this year.

At half time its goalless but the game is not without numerous chances.  Both Marco Wolfli in goal for Young Boys Berne and David Zibung in the Luzern goal produce good saves and the game is one which could swing either way. In the second half things are slightly different with Berne swarming around the Luzern goal and producing chance after chance.  Eventually a cross comes over and Dusan Veskovac heads into the net past Zibung.

The game continues to produce chance after chance especially when the class of Hakin Yakin shines through for Luzern in the second half.  Eventually its Berne who win the day and with the win close the gap on Luzern at the top.

Swiss football is perhaps not at the level of the Bundesliga but games in the top division are a visual spectacle.

Although the top division in Switzerland was once called Serie A the standard of football is most certainly not on par with the quality on offer in Italy. Despite the perceived conservative nature of the country football in Swiss club football has fanatical supporters. The day of this game saw the Grasshoppers v FC Zurich derby game being abandoned due to serious crowd disorder inside the ground.

With FC Basel defeating Manchester United in the Champions League there is evidence in place that the game in Switzerland has reached a much higher level than it has in previous years.  The national team is said to have a selection of youngsters at its disposal that will allow the national side to kick on towards qualification for Brazil 2014.  The top league of 10 may not indicate a real strength in depth but Swiss football has a lot more positive things on its doorstep than many realize.

This match report first appeared in 2011 on voicesinfootball

FT: BSC YB Bern 1 v Luzern FC 0

BSC Young Boys Berne

Marco Wölfli (C), Alain Nef, M. Silberbauer, Alexander Farnerud, Nassim Ben Khalifa, Elsad Zverotic, Christoph Spycher, David Degen, Dusan Veskovac, Emmanuel Mayuka, Raphal Nuzzolo

FC Luzern

Dave Zibung, Michel Renggli (C), Tomislav Puljic, Claudio Lustenberger, Jahmir Hyka, Florian Stahel, Adrian Winter, Xavier Hochstrasser, Burim Kukeli, Sally Sarr, Alain Wiss