At times I am so proud to be Swiss, at others, utterly embarrassed. The embarrassment comes from the country’s unashamed racism. Unashamed and open racism. Unashamed, open, and horrific racism. Billboards such as this have been regularly featured across the country (as nonchalantly as McDonalds or Mazda billboards are featured here):
This was taken in Wachwil at the bus stop by yours truly:
Now, I realize these posters are old news (the one I took was in 2008. A week before the Euro, mind you). But trust me, the sentiment in Switzerland has not change; if anything, it has gotten worse. Between the banning of Minarets and recent family deportation laws, Switzerland often makes me go, “what the fuck?”
(seriously, what. the. fuck.)
I am sure racism in Switzerland has hit close to home for me on more than one occasion (I don’t know how my mum, et. al. managed to grow up there as Pacific Islanders), but now it’s getting seriously out of hand. And even though I carry my Swiss passport with pride (especially when it allows me to jump the queue in EU airports) it’s also weighs down on my conscience: Switzerland, what the fuck?
I do have a point to all of this. And it, of course, involves soccer. Because for a country so racist, so ridiculous, and so ruthless when it comes to tolerance, they sure as hell have a lot of “non-Swiss” names on the roster.
This, is a good thing.
Before I begin, I want to say, all of these players are all “Swiss.” A “foreign” last name does not make you any less Swiss (says “Missio” over here) and a different place of birth does not make you any less Swiss if you have the lineage (says Missio over here… in "Canada"). I want to be careful without being overly compensatingly PC. For some reason, people get all up in arms when talking about other people’s backgrounds. I do not. I think people’s backgrounds are awesomingly interesting. Maybe it’s because of my own, but I think where you come from--and not just where you are--is important. And, quite frankly, I think they’re neat. Which is why I want to look at the Swiss National Team.
Now, I am sure you have read many articles, books, stats, rants etc. on how the more “international” the team, the more better they are (I believe that is the grammatically correct statement that is often used). It’s why many authors say the English team doesn’t do well at International tournaments: too many “English” players who do not have the skill to rival their well diverse counterparts (and before you argue, let it go, this is just a silly little blog post and I am clearly paraphrasing). Anyway, I think this idea of diverse national teams is fantastic.
In a couple of years (okay, a couple of decades) countries will be so diverse anyway none of this will matter. And, I think Switzerland may be on the right track.
To put things into perspective, if she (or, I suppose, her parents) really wanted to, my niece could legally hold five different citizenships. Six, if you included the EU.
So what does this mean for CH? Well, for a country so downright racist, they’re actually on the right track in inclusivity. I mean, CH is Latin for Confoederatio Helvetica, as to not favour any one official language (German, French, Italian, and sometimes Romansh). Okay, that’s stretching it, but look at the team:
Steve von Bergen
At first look, those names don’t scream Switzerland (they scream “awesome!” with the likes of Tranquillo, Innocent, and Granit), like other national teams do. Take someone like Senderos (also, you probably pronouncing his name wrong), born in Geneva to a Spanish father and Serbian mother. And according to my extensive research (wiki): “Senderos speaks six languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Serbian.” I think he's the poster boy for the future of this Swiss team, and the sport in general: a worldly, but national, player.
So where am I going with all of this? Funny, that’s a question I often ask myself and never quite seem to have an answer for. Anyway, for a country so heavily rooted in racism, I think their national team may be a hope for the future. Right now, the future of seem intolerant and closed minded. However, with the country rallying behind such as diverse team (hey, even Migros did in SA10!), a team that, if the U21 tournament is anything to go by, will go far in the future, maybe ideologies in Switzerland will start to change. If the Swiss are proud of the boys on the pitch, maybe they will be proud of their co-workers and neighbours. Maybe? One can hope.
Soccer can do that you know.
(Taken on a park bench in Lucerne, CH 2008).