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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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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.