Friday, 27 June 2008

Goodbye EURO2008 from Switzerland and The Wonder of Bern

Holland v France 4:1

I prefer using my own photos when I blog, although it is not always possible. This shows the match Holland:France where Holland won 4:1 against France. These were the closing scenes after the victory where the Dutch players spoke to their fans and families and took their children in their arms. Note on the right Edwin Van Der Sar - my favourite of the tournament (but my husband always said it is not how they look but how they play). So I wrote a few thoughts down after the tournament and here they are.

The last football match of the EURO2008 has now been played in Switzerland, the final matches now being taken over by our neighbours in Austria. The dice have tumbled and on Sunday we have the final Germany v Spain. I can only say may the best team win, being a European with my roots in England and now many in Switzerland I have no priorities any more. England didn’t get there and Switzerland only made a short visit.

Switzerland was the host land. The games were played in the towns of Basel, Bern, Zürich and Geneva. I live in a village just down the road from the town of Solothurn. Solothurn is sort of between Basel and Bern so we were not involved to a large extent. Zürich is in the East and Geneva in the West. Our town, as many others in Switzerland, had a large screen sponsored by the Union Bank of Switzerland where you could watch the match live with friends and fellow supporters. I heard that was not such a success as hoped for, most people staying at home in comfort or sharing with their colleagues in a favourite restaurant.

So what happened. Well one match Switzerland v Turkey was more or less played under water. There was a cloud burst and everyone got wet and the ball just swam around. The result being that in Basel the turf had to be replaced by a lightening action for the next match. Actually Basel is one of our best pitches. The games in Bern also had their excitement. The pitch in Bern was rebuilt a couple of years ago and now goes by the name of Stade de Suisse. During the normal football days it is the home of Bern Young Boys. During the EM 2008 it was taken over by our Dutch colleagues. The orange team played mostly in Bern and the results were clear. All camping places in the area suddenly took on an orange hue. We share four languages in Switzerland, but we suddenly had a fifth, Dutch. The squares and streets of Bern were populated by people clad in orange and there was a problem with supplies of beer to the restaurants in Bern.

Speaking as a normal average person there was no great problem in Switzerland. Hooliganism was not more than usual (if Basel meet Zürich in a match there is usually an amount of disagreement – Basel people and Zürich people are known to be on two different wave lengths in Switzerland).

So now Switzerland can go back to its normal lazy days of Summer, entertaining tourists in the Bernese overland, Lucern and Lugano. The gnomes can start distributing their gold bars and talk amongst the people is back to the price of bread and milk and not who should have won, and whether it should have been a penalty or not.

I would now like to take you back to 1954. My husband was then 15 years old and I was 8 years old somewhere in the East end of London, not even thinking that a husband could exist somewhere in the world. 1954 was the year that the Jules Rimet cup came to Switzerland. Eight years after the war Europe was still recovering from what had happened and things were sort of getting back to normal. The football games that had been stopped during the war were returning to a normal situation.
The teams involved in in the tournament were stationed in Switzerland in various towns and qualification matches had been played.

It so happened that the Germans were situated in Spiez in the Bernese Overland on the Lake of Thun and the Hungarians in Solothurn. This was the day of the Hungarian success as football had not been seen for years, the hero of Hungary being Ferenc Puskas their captain. Now imagine my husband a 15 year old school boy knowing that the Hungarians were training on the football ground of Solothurn. Of course, he went to see them training along with many other school children of the time. One of his best school colleagues were the Häner brothers who were both involved in football in later life as physiotherapists for the Swiss National Football team and Young Boys Bern. The memories of this training camp in Solothurn left a long lasting impression, especially as the final for the Rimet cup was played between Hungary and Germany. This match was eventually known as the Wonder of Bern. I don’t know how many here remember the match, but it was apparently really a miracle. Hungary went into the lead in the first half scoring two goals and the way the Hungarians had been playing up to then it was expected that this is the winning team, but this was not to be. Germany caught up in the second half and it was 2:2 and then the unbelievable happened. Six minutes before the end of the game Germany scored to go into the lead 3:2. Was this the wonder or not. Just before the end of the game Ferenc Puskas scored the equalizer making it 3:3 and the goal was disallowed by the referee as the English linesman said it was offside. Since that day this match has been known as the Wonder of Bern. I was reading some reports of the match, but it seems that film coverage was not exactly perfect and it is still being discussed today whether it was or was not a goal. I would also mention that it seems it was the first time a football team, the Germans, wore football boots with screw on studs supplied by the company Adidas.

Many years have now gone by, Ferenc Puskas, the football legend, died in 2006, but his name will never be fogotton. A film “Der Wunder von Bern” was made over this World Cup 1954 and has been shown on European television, unfortunately only available in the German language and even includes interviews with people from Solothurn. I found a YouTube film of the match 1954 where at the beginning the Hungarians are shown in their training camp in Solothurn, afterwards the German in Spiez, but unfortunately only in French. I would add that my husband told me they played a friendly match with our local Solothurn football team. He couldn’t remember the exact result but it was something like Hungary 12: Solothurn 0.

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