Young Boys: The story behind the Swiss football team’s strange name

Young Boys: The story behind the Swiss football team’s strange name
The age and the gender notwithstanding, why are the Swiss football champions called ‘Young Boys’? Here’s the story behind one of football’s strangest names.

Winners of four consecutive Swiss championships, BSC Young Boys made headlines the world over in September 2021 after beating a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Manchester United 2-1 in the Champions League. 

For some based outside of Switzerland, it might have been the first time they’d heard the name “Young Boys of Bern”, or at least the first time they realised it wasn’t a nickname but the genuine name of the club. 

Inside Switzerland however, few would not have heard the name. 

Besides the side being champions of the Swiss Super League, the fact their name is spoken in English despite being located in the bilingual German-French capital of Switzerland makes them hard to miss. 

While it might elicit a few chuckles whenever the fixtures are read out, Young Boys Bern – who play out of the Wankdorf Stadium in the suburbs of Bern and have a female division called Young Boys Women – have always been in on the joke. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Why are they called Young Boys?

Young Boys are sometimes known as Young Boys Bern, but their full name is BSC Young Boys, which stands for Berner Sports Club Young Boys. 

They were founded in the spring of 1898 and have won 15 Swiss leagues and six Swiss cups. 

Given that football was a relatively new sport at the time, the clubs founders – high school students Max Schwab, Hermann Bauer, Franz Kehrli and Oskar Schwab – named the club in a nod to Basel Old Boys, also deciding to adopt their colours of yellow and black. 

Basel Old Boys still exist. While they currently play in the fifth tier of Swiss football, the two clubs have met each other in cup competition. 

While the Swiss had taken to football strongly, in the early days it had largely been spread throughout the country by foreigners from Britain, as was the case through much of Europe. 

Whether Schwab, Bauer, Kehrli and Schwab knew it or not, the term ‘old boys’ refers to a former student of a college, school or sports club. 

Initially a student team, players from Young Boys were used more often in the city’s dominant FC Bern side, which caused friction on both sides. 

When FC Bern players complained, Young Boys were given the choice of merging or going their own way. FC Bern still exist, but currently play in the sixth tier of Swiss football. 

Young Boys have inspired similar names elsewhere in Swiss football, with SC Young Fellows Juventus based in Zurich and playing in the third tier of Swiss football. 

What about Young Boys playing out of Wankdorf Stadium? 

As for Wankdorf, this is less of an in-joke and more of a fact of geography and language. 

The current Wankdorf Stadium is the second largest in Switzerland. The stadium’s predecessors have also ranked highly, with one hosting the 1954 World Cup final (and the Miracle of Bern). 

A former logo of Young Boys Bern. Image: Wikicommons/CC

Wankdorf Stadium is based in the Wankdorf area in Bern. 

While Dorf means village in German, Wank does not have the same meaning in German as it does in English. 

While Young Boys have and English name and periodically English words on their crest, Wankdorf just doesn’t have the same meaning as it might elsewhere, although it does make for some good songs. 

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