Five things from….Switzerland 2 Ecuador 1

The good news – our Five Things seems to be well received.  Viewing figures are up, readers are happy and even non-football fans are pressing the “Like” button.  But the bad news is that I’m flying to the other side of the world today so who knows when the next chapter in this little project will make an appearance.  Apparently Emirates will be showing all the games live on their flights, which is brilliant news, but the time difference may prove a little bit difficult to keep up, so please be patient.

So after the excitement of Super Saturday, we have slow Sunday.  If ever there was a fixture that could return this World Cup to its normal defensive status quo it was this game.  Switzerland, unbelievably, are 6th in the FIFA World Rankings at the moment. SIXTH?? Ahead of Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, France and even Scotland.  Their opponents, Ecuador, twenty places lower, qualified in 4th place in South America.  On paper this should have been a banker Swiss win, but I had a sneaky feeling that the South American flair would win the day over Swiss defensive efficiency.

photo (1)1. Empty Seats – When the teams walked out you thought, WOW! Look at the crowd…and then you realise they weren’t thousands of Swiss fans but actually empty seats…lots of empty seats.  All in the prime camera positions.  Doesn’t look good on FIFA does it? But actually, do they really care?  Of course not.  They have the sponsors money in the bank and they don’t care.  Twenty minutes later those seats are remarkably full…I wonder if they were moved from areas of the ground not visible by the main cameras?

2. Mexican Wave Barometer – A tournament record of 9 minutes 34 seconds before the cheers started going up to signify the start of the blight on world football.  Is that symptomatic of a boring game?  Ten minutes later the crowd felled into silence – a definite sign they were asleep.

3. Shadows – Billions has been spent on the media rights for the tournament and sensitivities on the time zones has been discussed, hence why the England game was moved from the initial 2am slot.  So why didn’t they think of the shadows of the roof when they scheduled the games?  If this was the 8pm game then it would be prime time still in both countries and the shadows would have disappeared

 4. Like a salmon – Great cross, unmarked header into the net.  The keeper’s reaction?  Wait until it is in the net and then leap like a salmon, getting nowhere near it but at least able to say “I heroically tried to save it”…

5. Shaving foam – Good spot by my daughter who thinks that the referee’s special spray is actually shaving foam.  She claimed she saw the label on the can.  We tried it in the garden and it did “dissolve” after a minute or so.  However, when the grass was wet, it did get a bit messy.

The Beer World Cup

Back in 2010 a group of us took part in the Cup of Good Hop, a one day beerfest that saw us decide which beer was the best in the World Cup Finals.  The winner? One of the rank outsiders, Switzerland, took the title, hands down with their outstanding 14% Samichlaus beer.  And four years later the beer, brewed in the Eggenberg Castle in Vorchdorf was back again.  What better way to prepare for a six-hour flight than downing one of these.  On the other side, Ecuador’s Club beer was meekly brought forward as the opponent.  They should have stayed in South America.

Switzerland 4 Ecuador 1

Lake of fire

Now here is a question for you – which place comes next in the following list?

Monte-Carlo, Heidelberg, Salzburg, Florence

Need a clue? OK these are four of the top 5 destinations of choice in Europe according to Tripadvisor. Think Switzerland? Think 14th century bridge across a lake? You lot are rubbish…of course the missing link is Lucerne. Or Luzern …or Lucerna depending if you are feeling French, German or Romansh. Visitors flock to the picturesque small city high in the Alps and on the crystal clear waters of Vierwaldstättersee, or Lake Lucerne for the uneducated.

Since the city straddles the Reuss River where it drains the lake, it has a number of bridges. The most famous is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a 200metre long wooden bridge originally built in 1333, although much of it has been replaced during the years Part way across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a fortification from the 13th century. The Bridge with its Tower is the city’s most famous landmark.

Ask CMF about my romantic side and she will wax lyrical about some of my more inventive ideas in the past. It’s not always been PSFs (petrol station flowers) and trips to football you know. And Lucerne was a perfect romantic venue, strolling hand in hand along the Kapellbrücke under the moonlight. But you don’t believe me for a minute that is why I was in that city. And you’d be right. CMF was 567 miles away in TBIR Towers and I was sharing the moonlight moment with a hundred or so Grasshoppers fans who were here for the Swiss Cup game against FC Luzern.

The hosts, known as Die Leutchen in Switzerland (and the stars elsewhere) were Swiss champions back in 1989 and were comfortably mid table last season. they can be summed up in one word – Swiss. Their most exciting moment in recent years came when they were asked by the Brazilians to play them in a warm up game prior to the 2006 World Cup. An 8-0 final score line probably wasn’t a shock to many on the day.

Earlier in the season the club moved into the Swissporarena, the newest stadium in the country. The 16,800 capacity state of the art stadium has been built on the site of their old Stadion Allmend and is a combination of some of the best architectural elements of the new Letzigrund Stadion in Zürich on the outside and the blandest of the new stadiums on the inside. Functional is one word you can use to sum it up, although the setting is stunning with the snowy peaks of the Alps looking down on the action.

Of course I would be accompanied on my Swiss Ramble with the Swiss Ramble – Kieron never misses a chance of a game when I am over so he worked out the logistics of the trip, buying the tickets and generally making sure I wouldn’t stray from the straight and narrow.

We headed south from Zürich with the sun slowly falling across the lake.  You pay for beauty in Switzerland and so having only paid £40 for the 45 minute return journey to Luzern I wanted a view in a half.  As Basil Fawlty said to Mrs Richards, “Well, may I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically…?” . For my £40 I was expecting to see snowy alpine mountains, cows with bells on, St Bernard dogs with brandy bottles around their necks and Sepp Blatter.  I didn’t really see any of that but the lakeside scenery was quite impressive. Continue reading

On the waterfront

On the banks of a picturesque Alpine lake in the heart of French-speaking Switzerland sits the tiny town of Neuchâtel.  This is picture-postcard ville.  The steep Jura mountains, part of the lower Alps rise high up on both sides of the lake, whilst expensive looking boats bob up and down on the calm waters.  On Sunday’s here you could hear a pin drop.  That was until the 14:32 from Zürich arrived and decamped the wild boys of FCZ who were here to back their team in the Super Sunday Axpo Super League showdown against Neuchâtel Xamax.

The town is the home today for the likes of tennis stars Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Florent Serra as well as Roberto Milani (aka Robert Miles) who wrote such 90’s Electronic classics as Fable and Dreams.  But today they had batterned down the hatches or simply left town.  Today was not a day to be “sitting, chillin’ and having a coffee”. Continue reading

Only two teams and one ground in Zurich

Take a seat.  I wont keep you long, but this is complicated stuff.  It involves two clubs, two grounds, one regional government and a series of broken promises. Let me take you back to 2005.  UEFA had announced that Switzerland and Austria would co-host the 2008 European Championships, and one of the host cities would be Zürich.  The only question would be which stadium would be used? The Letzigrund was the home of FC Zürich, nine times Swiss Champions as well as one of the most famous athletics tracks in the world and part of the IAAF Diamond League. The Hardturm was home of Grasshoppers, the most successful team in Switzerland with 17 titles and 18 Swiss cups to their name.  Their stadium was bigger and football only.

Initially a decision was made to build a new ground, named the Stadion Zürich on the site of the Hardturm. Both teams would share this football only stadium, leaving the Letzigrund as a multi-purpose arena.  Grasshoppers would have to move out whilst it was being built and an agreement was made for them to travel the two miles or so across the railway line to the Letzigrund and share with their greatest rivals, FCZ. Continue reading

Pure genuis

I consider myself quite clever and switched on when it comes to financial reporting.  A few years ago I went through a very painful experience of watching my global employer literally meltdown in a multi-million dollar collapse.  I felt that if I had been able to understand the signs from the information I had access to I could have avoided the day when I left the building with my cardboard box under my arm and signing on with the DSS.  So I enrolled in the ACCA Financial Management course, a two-year part-time study that took in elements of Risk Management and Regulatory requirements (go on just ask me about the finer details of Sarbanes-Oxley Act 2002, section 404) so next time I would be older and wiser.

I scraped through the exams and coursework, gaining 51% overall, with a pass mark required of 50% and thus gained one of the highest financial qualifications you could get without being an auditor or an account. Never again would I be embarrassed in picking up a financial statement or annual report and not knowing what unliquidated damages were, or the difference between amortization and depreciation.  That was until I met Kieron O’Connor.

Kieron is possibly the most influential writer in the world of football on its finances.  To the thousands (18,216 to be precise as of 10am today) he is better known as The Swiss Ramble.  He is an award winning writer (as opposed to a blogger) who has been mentioned as one of the most authoritative sources of financial analysis by none other than Liverpool owner John W Henry, who described him via his Twitter feed as “Consistently remarkable, excellent analyses on the business of football”.  He is frequently featured in the Independent and The Guardian Football Weekly and to top off a fine year last weekend he was voted the Best Blogger of the Year by the Football Supporters Federation at their annual awards.

What relevance does this all have.  Well, Kieron is also a top chap and great company.  Living in Zürich sort of precludes him from our normal regular meet ups but when the opportunity arises he is as keen as mustard for a game in a random part of the countryside.  As luck would have it (and I genuinely mean that) a work trip to Zürich coincided with the Uhren Cup.  What do you mean you have never heard of it?  It is in its 50th year and includes two Swiss teams and two from elsewhere in Europe.  Each team plays two games and the winner is the one with the best record.  This year the teams invited were Young Boys Berne, FC Basel, Hertha Berlin and West Ham United.  Unbelievable Jeff.  My club playing just short hop on a train from Zürich. Continue reading