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‘We don’t like France, Germany or Italy’: How linguistic diversity unites Swiss football fans

'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
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.

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.

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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.

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