Opponent of the France team in the round of 16 of the Euro, this Monday evening (9 p.m.), Switzerland is not supported throughout Helvetia. And for good reason, players of Balkan origin are accused of not loving their country of birth enough.
At Euro 2016, Philippe von Burg, commentator of theSwiss team on the RTS for 10 years, revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the Nati before the third match of the group stage against France. The journalist also explained to us that the players of Balkan origin, in particular the two stars Granit Xhaka and xherdan Shaqiri, were not appreciated by everyone in the country.
« For some (players), they have two countries in their hearts. The Swiss-Albania was not obvious because they faced close people, even a brother for Xhaka. There are criticisms of the lack of identification, with part of the public saying that some players are not 100% Swiss », Philippe von Burg explained to us in this way.. We contacted him again before the new clash between the two nations on Monday evening.
Philippe, when is the place of selection in Swiss society?
Philippe von Burg: What I said in 2016 is still relevant today. It is a movement linked to people of the extreme right, in particular. Once again, during the first match of the Swiss at the Euro against Wales (1-1), after a somewhat average performance, the debate revived. Roger Köppel, a politician from Zurich, who is a journalist by training, who is quite well known because he works in a widely read newspaper in the German-speaking part, praised the Hungarians saying that players with the right hair color were able to do a great game. It was an allusion to Granit Xhaka and Manuel Akanji, who had been called spoiled children because they had brought a hairdresser to Baku. It is a controversy that has erupted in German-speaking Switzerland, less in French-speaking Switzerland. It was harmless.
Roger Köppel attacked the selection for the 2018 World Cup (calling the team “ almost homeless multicultural Balkan mercenary troop », Editor’s note) and it makes me laugh when he highlights the Hungarian selection, where there is a French player of color. It is a new example that this still exists in Switzerland. In France, you are a little further ahead on the subject than we are. In Switzerland, it continues. Some consider that not all players in the selection are real Swiss and do not defend the shirt as well as Swiss Germans could. Which, from a football point of view, is obviously inconceivable.
In addition, the whole Swiss team does not necessarily sing or sing the national anthem. It’s a little complicated situation, because Switzerland is a multilingual country, the lyrics are in German. Some players do not sing, but it is something trivial. It is a thought that is not the majority but which is nevertheless quite widespread, especially in German-speaking Switzerland.
As sports journalists, you are therefore parasitized by social debates …
At RTS, we broadcast all the matches of the Euro, we are 5 commentators. And it is true that, when we follow the Swiss selection, instead of talking about football all the time, we have these parasitic affairs.
How is this problem perceived within the selection?
There has been a lot of work by the national coach (Vladimir Petkovic) to present a better image to the media, to the supporters. He handled the controversies well on this subject. At the 2018 World Cup, there was the Albanian eagle affair made by Xhaka and Shaqiri against Serbia. They have been amended. Lichtsteiner (the captain at the time) had also made the gesture and this had interpreted as a very strong support to his teammates. There was an evolution on the part of Lichtsteiner, who had himself mentioned the problem of identification in Swiss selection.
The situation therefore improves a little over time …
Mentalities are changing, the new generation is becoming more adult. Somehow, we are starting to break taboos with other struggles, on issues of sexuality, in terms of ecology. I am optimistic about the evolution of Swiss society, even if, in German-speaking Switzerland more than in French-speaking Switzerland, controversies over Swiss selection still exist.
As in France, there is now the possibility of seeing natives of Switzerland evolving for another selection. This will not help the situation …
For the moment, this is not too controversial, because we do not have at all the same pool of high-level players as in France, but especially with the creation of Kosovo, players trained in Switzerland, who have international junior summer, have rallied Kosovo for the qualifiers. We also have a fairly strong Portuguese community (260,000 Portuguese in Switzerland), which is very attached to its country of origin. With this figure, we should have one or two players of Portuguese origin in the selection but this is not yet the case.
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