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Football reaches fever pitch again

By Martin Pütter

Last April Andy Hynes was over the moon. The Londoner, now living in Basel, had got a ticket for a match featuring his beloved Chelsea FC. It was not just a ticket to an ordinary match – he had finally got hold of a ticket for the first leg of the semi-final in the Europa League, with Chelsea playing away against FC Basel at the St. Jakob-Park. A major part in his getting a ticket was played by a Telebasel programme called “Heimspiel”. The local TV station had interviewed him four days before the match, and towards the end of the programme the Chelsea fan had appealed to the viewers, saying that he was still desperately looking to get a ticket for this match.

Andy was successful with his appeal – in the end he got a ticket, even if it was “only” an Europa League match. Now both Andy and many FC Basel supporters will probably have some difficulties getting a ticket for the next time that Basel’s top football club and the Londoners face each other this Tuesday – and this time it is a Champions League match. As Basel is madder about football than any other city in Switzerland, all tickets will quite likely have been sold come Tuesday. By the way, for all those not keen on football (even if that might only be around 0.x % of the population in Basel): the Champions League is the most prestigious club competition in football worldwide.

mainLast September, during the first round of the group stages, FC Basel caused a major upset in this competition by beating Chelsea away 2-1. After this home defeat at Stamford Bridge the “Blues” were the laughing stock, not just in England and Switzerland, but around the football world. Now the Londoners would like to get their revenge at St. Jakob-Park – and Andy Hynes would love to see it.

Should he have failed to secure a ticket for Tuesday’s match, he will be found – like many of his compatriots that were equally unlucky – watching the match in one of the pubs where expats living in the Basel area are regulars. For English football supporters this is most likely the next best thing, after going to the ground, to enjoy watching their team: in the company of like-minded fans, and of course with a few pints of beer.

For all those who would like to enjoy this atmosphere, please note that on that day, for security reasons, the staff at Mr. Pickwick pub will be serving the drinks in plastic cups – the consequences of a minor incident two years ago when Manchester United had travelled to Basel. A small handful of Basel hooligans (yes, the city has not been spared by those unsavoury elements) had – very mistakenly – thought they could beat up some United fans that were enjoying a few beers a day before the match. The half dozen yobs that actually managed to get into the pub were in for a surprise when they found out that some of the patrons that night had a black belt in judo.

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