Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

Essays, Player Reviews, Scouting Reports, Events, Match Reviews, Statistics and Things of no Importance

Saturday, May 12, 2012

FC Basel 6-3 Grasshoppers Club Zurich

Basel Already Won The Title, So Why Watch Them Play?

This morning, I dragged my sorry, tired butt out of bed at the crack of dawn on the last day of my vacation to watch my beloved club play halfway around the world. The sun was rising here and setting there and we are an entire world apart, none of them knowing that I even exist and with the title secure, none of them really having a huge incentive to play for the win, aside from the fact that winning is awesome.
Aleksandar Dragovic versus Frank Feltscher
Grasshoppers were the first ones to score in the first five minutes of the match with a beautiful volley past our third string keeper but by halftime, Basel had made it 2-1 in their favor and were dominating play. The second half was an explosion of goals and another dominant 45 for the home side and they were able to wrap things up nicely and secure the 6-3 victory. I often do a thorough match report, but between falling asleep sitting up and the crappy live stream I got on my laptop, I was pretty unaware of what was going on until the 75th minute so instead, I will explain why I have fallen in love with the men in red and blue from the only port city in a small land-locked country because that is about all my brain can handle right now.

Ten Reasons Why Being an FC Basel Fan is Awesome.

I am often asked why on earth I would support FC Basel, a small club from a small country residing in a city that many people have never even heard of. I am often criticized for loving the club purely because the players are hot. Well, there are some members of our starting eleven that could double as super models, BUT they also happen to be talented players with admirable qualities. Their good-looks are just a plus.
FCB on the beach in Hanalei, Hawaii
As our season comes to a close, I am happily looking back on a successful season with more ups than downs, more successes than failures and some truly glorifying moments that will be engraved in my memory forever. So, for those of you who need to be convinced as to why I love Basel so much and am willing to wake up at 5 am on vacation to watch them play (and win 6-3), here are the main reasons why I love FC Basel.
1) The biggest insult that could ever be thrown at you from anyone besides Bayern Munich fans is, "No one knows who you are." - oooooh that one stung. Not. In America, even if I went around going "I support Manchester United!" very few people would look at you and say, "Oh! I bet it sucks to lose the league title to your neighborhood rivals, especially when they buy their way to victory!" As a supporter of FC Basel, I actually get to walk around gloating as I educate the uneducated on my love affair with a little club from Switzerland. We won the title by a fairly solid margin... Ok a really solid margin, and are in the final for the Swiss Cup. Little honors, maybe, but considering their money, their talent pool to pick from and the size of their league (ten teams total) they are cleaning up pretty well.
2) We beat freaking Manchester United. In the UEFA Champions League after they were finalists last season and winners within the past decade. Not many people can make Sir Alex Ferguson and his eleven legendary men on that pitch look like total fools, but Alex Frei and Marco Streller certainly did on our own pitch at St. Jakob-Park. After they went crashing out of Europa League it seemed to be a smaller honor, but the performance from Basel on the pitch was truly world class and they deserved to go through.
3) We have the strongest youth academy in Switzerland! Says the FC Basel fan, but I can say I know what I'm talking about when it comes to prodigal youth. During the Swiss's success in the U17 World Cup competition in Nigeria in 2009, six players (Granit Xhaka, Benjamin Siegrist, Janick Kamber, Robin Vecchi, Kofi Nimeley and Roman Buess) were current or former products of the Basel youth academy and in the U21 European Championships in 2011, four FC Basel players and youth academy success stories (Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabian Frei and Yann Sommer) were in the starting 11. Within the past year, Xherdan Shaqiri was among the hottest transfer topics, finally settling for a contract with Bayern Munich in the January transfer window while Granit Xhaka has claimed to be committed to Borussia Monchengladbach after an explosion of transfer claims in January following the 19 year-old's dominant performances in the UEFA Champions League.
4) I am among one of the best fan bases in the world. Basel fans claim to be some of the most committed fans in world football, and it's true. There must be lots of love to keep you so attached to a team that no one outside of Switzerland is aware of and who gets spanked 7-0 in the Champions League by Bayern Munich. On average, St. Jakob Park welcomes about 30,000 fans to Basel's regular games and was packed to the rafters for their UEFA Champions League matches. They have a committed group who travel to support them anywhere they play and a strong following for their women and youth teams as well. FC Basel also have the love and adoration of tennis star Roger Federer.
5) The coverage from the club media is top class. Not an eyelash is batted at that club without everyone knowing. Within minutes of any official signing, contract renewal, match result or interview, a thorough, detailed, wonderfully crafted and accurately informative article is posted to the club website and fans are alerted via twitter, Facebook, email or by text message. Interviews and match highlights are regularly streamed to the club website and once a month, RotBlau Total is shown on local television and then posted to the website complete with highlights, press conferences, features, interviews and whatever else the press can come up with.
6) The players are treated well. Now I am not a player for FC Basel, but from what I can tell, they are happy, successful, looked after and especially loved by the fans. These are simply some of my observations. Upon retirement, the player is recognized in front of the adoring home fans by the club president. Often times his exit is followed by tears from the dedicated followers and lots of well wishes from his fellow players and the staff. If he ever returns to the stadium with his new team, he is photographed plenty of times and still tagged in the photos on the website. Today, upon scoring his 300th goal in style for Basel against Grasshoppers FC, Alex Frei, a Basel legend, was presented with a jersey to commemorate this huge milestone by his happy and smiling coach Heiko Vogel. In interviews and press conferences the players are repeatedly phrased for their efforts and the relationship between staff and players seems to be one of respect and general affection. Youth players are also given lots of chances to prove themselves for the club. If they are still in need of experience, rather than letting them go they are simply loaned to a club in need of the players services and then welcomed back to Basel once they have gained more experience. If I am totally of the mark with this, I can say with confidence that the players are loved dearly by their fans no matter what and should be proud to wear the Rot und Blau jerseys.
7) They play beautiful football. After years of watching the top European leagues and taking coaching courses on the beautiful game, I have turned into a serious soccer snob. Too much passing and I get bored, frustrated and doubtful of their finishing abilities, not enough and I get irritated and assume that every man on the pitch has a negative football IQ. FC Basel plays the perfect combination of Barcelona style passing and dribbling combined with the lethal through-ball style to their imposing forwards. And that is just their attack. Their defense plays a flat back four with defensive support from the midfield that even the most strict adherents to catenaccio would be proud of. Even then, if all else fails, Yann Sommer and his cat-like reflexes  have saved us a shutout on many occasions. Considering the quality of their side, Basel have a very deep bench. Very rarely does the same squad start more than two games in a row. No matter who is on the pitch, they are often able to produce good results.

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