Two teams that lost their first games in Group A of the European Championship, or EURO 2008, clash tonight at Basel's St-Jakob Park, in a game that is expected to be played in high tension as the game is a follow up of the sides' stormy encounter in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. However even this fact fails to create much excitement in the city. Although Basel hosts the largest Turkish community in Switzerland, the Turks were nowhere to be seen yesterday.
“The majority of the Turkish supporters in the game will be those who travel from Germany,” explained Medet Kurtar, owner of a jewelry store in the center of Basel. “I think tomorrow [Wednesday] we will see a much different, much exciting city.” The fan zones in Basel were almost empty and there was no sign in the streets that today is a big day for the city. “I remember the game in Istanbul,” said Vreneli Scherrer, a waitress in a café in Basel. “But it is not a big deal for me. After all, it's just football.” Her approach to the game reflects that of many Swiss, it is just football, and they do not care. That is why you can not get the feeling of being involved in European football's showpiece event anywhere, except in Bern, where the Netherlands plays all of its three games in Group C. Tens of thousands of Dutch, 100,000 according to the estimates of Swiss papers, took to the streets of Bern for two days, and celebrated their glorious 3-0 victory until early Tuesday morning. “They [Dutch supporters] are great,” said Walter Seger, a Swiss living in Bern. “It is like the city is hosting a huge carnival. Wonderful!” Seger, who also works as a volunteer for the EURO 2008 organization, thinks that there is no bad blood between the Swiss and the Turks. “It's been three years, it is time to forget and move on,” he said. The game everybody talks about is the two-leg Turkey-Switzerland clash in November 2005 to determine which team would advance to the World Cup in Germany. The teams drew 4-4 on aggregate, but the Swiss advanced on away goals. After the final whistle, a scuffle broke out between players from both sides in the tunnel on the way to the locker room, drawing coaches and Turkish security guards into the fighting. Switzerland defender Stephane Grichting was hospitalized with a minor injury.
The fight led to a rash of suspensions, with FIFA President Sepp Blatter even threatening at one point to ban Turkey from the 2010 World Cup. Blatter, a Swiss native, eventually backed down. As a result, Turkey played three home games of its EURO 2008 qualification campaign in Germany. The players and fans are expected to behave themselves, but there is another danger. “The supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, are very well organized in Switzerland, especially in Basel,” said a Turkish restaurant owner who asked not to be named. “What we hear is they are preparing to stage protests at the game. If they do, it can lead to very serious incidents,” he said.
A peaceful but tough game:
Not only fans, but also the Swiss players and coach Fatih Terim are trying to calm tensions. "Of course, it's not easy to forget what happened in Istanbul," Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta told reporters Monday. "But we are trying not to dwell on it. "The only similarity to the situation in Istanbul is that both sides need to win so Wednesday will be like a final for all of us." Terim was focused on the football side, since his team needs to win to stay in the competition after Saturday's dismal 2-0 loss to Portugal. "For us it is just another game, one we have to win," said Terim. "I want everything to run perfectly – and peacefully." However Turkey will need more than peace if it wants to stay in the competition. And the level of football against Portugal does not create much hope. In addition to that, the defensive line has its own problems; central defender Gökhan Zan was ruled out and his counterpart Servet Çetin is doubtful after both damaged knee ligaments on Saturday. It will not be an easy task, but Terim's player should overcome the pressure to prove that they are good, at least better than the Swiss.