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‘We don’t like France, Germany or Italy’: How linguistic diversity unites Swiss football fans

Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. But the support for the national football team, has no (linguistic) borders, as The Local found out ahead of Switzerland’s match against Italy on Friday.

'We don’t like France, Germany or Italy’: How linguistic diversity unites Swiss football fans
"We did it": Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer is ecstatic after win over France. Photo by Justin Setterfield / POOL / AFP

Images of an unsuspecting fan of the Swiss National Team (known here as the “Nati”, short for Fussballnationalmannschaft) made the rounds of social media after Switzerland’s epic win against France on Thursday, showing the world just how passionate and emotional team supporters are — despite language differences.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

The supporter featured in those photos, Luca Loutenbach, is from the French-speaking canton of Jura, but he is the embodiment of all the avid fans of the Nati, wherever in Switzerland they may live.

Loutenbach’s image went viral on Twitter

Interestingly, when individual Swiss teams play in Switzerland, they are followed by their supporters who sit in the stadiums and often heckle each other — each in their own language.

But when the Nati plays against foreign teams, everyone unites behind it. Rivalries and hostilities disappear, and the language is no barrier.

When the supporters can’t communicate in each other’s language, they revert to English, according to Jeremy from Vaud, who has followed the Nati numerous times, including to France for the 2016 Euro Cup and to the 2018 World Cup qualifications in Portugal.

Another supporter, Yves from Bern, went to Rome to watch the Nati play (and lose) against Italy on June 16th, along with 20 other supporters, some of whom he met through the Friends of the Swiss National Football Team Facebook page.

“Most of us were German speakers, but there were also four from the French part and one from the Italian. We had no trouble communicating, in with all three languages plus English”, Yves said.

But regardless of languages spoken by the fans, they all learned the team song, which is in Swiss-German.

The lyrics, set to the music from the song “The Lions Sleep Tonight” pay homage to the team’s forward, Breel Embolo:

“I de Nati, de Schwiizer Nati, do esch de Breel dihei.

Oh Embolo, oh Embolo”. 

Translated into English this means, “In the national team, the Swiss national team, there is Breel’s home. Oh Embolo, oh Embolo”.

Here are the fans singing this song in the French-speaking village of Lens, in canton Valais.

“Great ambiance”

When supporters follow the Nati to games abroad, “we post on social media where we are going to meet”, Jeremy said.

The meeting place is usually in front of a bar and then the throng of hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of fans from all over Switzerland go together to the stadium, singing the “Embolo” song.

“The ambiance is really great”, Jeremy said.

Yves noted that he made many friends among other supporters during these jaunts, including those from other linguistic regions.

“When Nati plays, we are all behind it”.

And if Switzerland didn’t qualify for the Euro, would the fans support teams from linguistically neighbouring countries?

“No”, Jeremy said. “The Swiss don’t like France or Germany”.

What about Italy?

“We don’t like Italy either”.

That is one message that is not lost in translation.

READ MORE: Where can I watch Switzerland’s Euro 2020 matches in Zurich?

READ MORE: Where can I watch Switzerland’s Euro 2020 matches in Geneva?

READ MORE: Where can I watch Switzerland’s Euro 2020 matches in Bern?

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Where can I watch Switzerland’s Euro 2020 matches in Bern?

With the pandemic now (hopefully) in the rearview mirror, Switzerland has relaxed rules for bars, restaurants and events. Here’s where you can watch Euro 2020 games live in Bern.

Where can I watch Switzerland’s Euro 2020 matches in Bern?
Not only is this a great way to show your support for Switzerland, but it's a fun way to annoy your German friends if they fall asleep at a party. Photo: BORIS HORVAT / AFP

Euro 2020 – taking place of course in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic – kicked off on Friday, June 11th. 

Despite injuries and a lack of match fitness among key players, Switzerland have a strong chance of getting out of the group stages and matching their best-ever performance, which took place at the 2016 edition where they went to the Round of 16. 

Switzerland were drawn in a strong but not impossible group of Wales, Italy and Turkey – and will realistically hope to finish second in the group. 

Switzerland have some top quality players in their squad, including Liverpool bench man Xherdan ‘Magic Cube’ Shaqiri and Gladbach goalscorer Breel Embolo, along with seemingly every goalkeeper in the Bundesliga. 

What are the coronavirus rules? 

From the start of the tournament, organisers will be able to host a maximum of 300 people outside and 100 people inside pursuant to coronavirus rules. 

This means that the large ‘Public Viewing’ events which have taken place in the past will not be allowed as per usual. 

From June 28th, the rules will be further relaxed to allow for up to 1,000 people if they are seated. 

This will however be from the quarter finals onwards, which gives Switzerland a surefire incentive to go deep in the tournament. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to further relax coronavirus measures from June 28th

But whether you’re cheering for Switzerland or another one of the tournament’s 24 teams, here’s where you can watch. 

While many of the usual large public viewing sites will be unavailable, this will benefit some of the city’s smaller sports bars who will now surely have every seat filled. 

Where can I watch the Euros in Bern?

Reservations are recommended or required at most venues. 

If you’re just keen to play it by ear or if you haven’t got any reservations locked in, then a walk along Aarbergergasse will throw up plenty of options that might tickle your fancy. 

The closest you’ll get to a ‘public viewing’ of years past will be at Dr Bitz, right in the centre of Bern, which shows every game life. While entry is free, reservations are encouraged for big games

Bierhübeli, in the north of the city, also shows all games and has a good selection of beers. 

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