Switzerland Writers 2 – 6 Scotland Writers
Sportplatz Buschweilerhof, Basel, Saturday 8th September 2018
Report by Greg Eden
“They’re gonnae give us 7,000 Swiss francs in expenses and pay for us to go over and play them?”
“And he wants your bank details?”
“Are ye sure he’s no’ a Nigerian Prince?”
Turns out this Patrick Tschan guy is kosher and despite Doug’s initial incredulity when the message popped into his inbox some 18 months ago, Scotland Writers FC are heading to Basel to take on their Swiss counterparts, in what will be their 30th game and 10th international fixture.
And what a trip it turns out to be.
So what do we know about Basel? In my case that it was once the footballing home of the Premier League’s brace of Balkan baw-heids, Xerdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka – and that, tragically was about it.
Turns out it’s some place – a historic, immaculate, quintessentially European city, looking pretty glorious in the late summer sunshine.
It’s got a 12th century Gothic cathedral? An immaculately preserved 16th century town hall you say? Erasmus is buried there, is that right? Medieval old town? Not one, but three of Europe’s finest art collections?
“’Mon we’ll go to the pub, eh?”
And that, my friends, is exactly what we do.
The majority of us, congregating on the Friday lunchtime, head into town for lunch and waste no time getting outside some of Europe’s finest £20 burgers and £7 beers (veggie options also available). So far so good, until Ciaran is accosted by a nicotine-hungry Swiss pensioner, and runs and hides in the lavvy, thereby ruining his one and only chance of a holiday romance. Some you win, some you lose.
But losing is the last thing on our minds when we meet up with Swiss captain, Patrick Tschan, after a brief trip to the banks of the Rhine, accompanied by the traditional Scottish Writers’ “cerry-oot”.
Patrick’s a garrulous, and reassuringly old dude, who in no way resembles the monocle-wearing, Teutonic Indiana Jones villain in an ankle-length leather coat with a clipboard under his arm, that I had concocted in my addled mind, fuelled by tales of relentless Swiss organisation and military precision.
Introductions and credentials exchanged, there’s a crescendo of tiny violins as he offers up a litany of woes about his ageing squad and how his best striker has spent the last 18 months sitting on the commode etc etc, but the more cynical amongst us (i.e. all of us) sense a cunning web of deceit, and wave away the impending false sense of security, like it’s a persistent Jehovah’s Witness.
Fancy another £8 beer? Does a bear shit in the woods?
Repairing to the upstairs room of a nearby restaurant, which is the unofficial FC Basel canteen and houses the Swiss Cup in a glass case, no less, we tuck into £30 bowls of pasta and some £9 beers. The world is put to rights and the morn’s team news disseminated over a few more £10 beers.
And so to bed.
Match day dawns bright and sunny, and we realise it’s gonna be a hot one as we board the tram for the Buschweilerhof, home of FC Black Stars Basel, (a fourth tier Swiss team, founded in 1907), where the game is to kick off at 12 noon.
As someone who grew up playing football in the actual street, and on red cinder pitches, having changed in a Spartan, Arctic changing room, the wee complex seems ostentatiously luxurious. Beautiful surface, spanky changing room block with underground, nuclear bunker style changing rooms, pitch side piazza for spectators with tables and umbrellas, and of course, a wee café and pub. A pub. Spiritual home material for yours truly, at least.
With three or four youthful exceptions, it looks like Patrick was straight up about the Swiss squad. While it’s not quite a cavalcade of mobility scooters and sea of tartan blankets, their average age looks significantly higher than ours, and, for me at least, an air of pre-match optimism prevails. Young Boys of Berne? Old Boys of Basel, mair like?
They’ve organised a piper, and the anthem goes off a treat. The teams are read out over the tannoy, and it’s a “tears and snotters” moment for Eden senior as they make the father and son connection, and he is forced to take in the opening exchanges through a veil of proud tears. A moment to remember.
McIntosh, King, Scott, McCarthy, Williamson, Clark, Johnstone, Mackay, Buckland, Suessenbach, Mackie (Subs: Dougan, Dodd, Innes, Eden Snr, Eden Jnr, Quinn)
The whistle goes and we’re at it from the start, using the ball well and talking to each other, and after four minutes, we take the lead, with the infeasibly energetic Suessenbach rounding a defender and the keeper, to knock it in with his left. 1-0 Scotland.
A minute later it’s two, as Mackie gets his first and Scotland’s second, after more good work by Suessenbach, touches it past a defender and finishing with his left, the ball trickling agonisingly into the Swiss net. But we’ll take it. 2-0 Scotland.
On thirteen minutes, Clydebank’s answer to Roberto Carlos, Dougie King, does some great work on the right, and spins a pearler of a pass into Mackie’s path, and Maryhill’s Harry Potter takes it in his stride, running through for a cool, precise, right foot finish. Great goal. 3-0 Scotland.
To paraphrase the nasal tones of the late, great Arthur Montford – suddenly, it’s all too easy.
On 21 minutes, we’re pressing again, and after some dogged persistence from Buckland, it’s an o.g – 4-0 Scotland! Luke McCarthy laughably calls for us to take the foot off the gas as it’s too humiliating for the other team (are these the Scotland Writers we know and love?)
4-0 up in 21 minutes. That’s. 21. Minutes. Suspicious looks from the Swiss bench.
But now it’s really time to whip out the “this happens aw the time” faces.
That mask of inscrutability slips slightly however, five minutes later, as we’re dispossessed in our own box and their striker slots one into the corner. Bit of a gift, really. 4-1 Scotland.
The four goal cushion is restored after 29 minutes though, with another good finish from the tireless Suessenbach – it’s like watching Brazil, or Cowdenbeath, or somebody else, at least.
On thirty-four minutes, the Swiss snatch a second when it rolls out invitingly from the edge of the box and their lively young midfielder just beats the despairing Buckland to the ball, and hits a fantastic shot into the bottom left hand corner of McIntosh’s goal. A great hit, and vying with Mackie’s cool second for the goal of the game.
The injured Peter Mackay goes off to be replaced by Niall Quinn.
Half-time: Scotland 5 Switzerland 2
Great stuff in the first half from the whole Scotland team, with a special mention to Scott and McCarthy in the centre of the Scotland defence, who (despite the two goals conceded) have been defending solidly and using the ball really well.
Greg Eden replaces Neil Williamson at left back for the second half, with Emily Dodd slotting in in place of Tam Clark in the right of midfield.
The Swiss come out fighting in the first ten minutes or so of the second half, competing in the middle of the park, keeping the ball well and attacking down the flanks with energy, but we manage to hold out, defending the edge of the box well, and after 57 minutes we score a sixth, a stooping header for Mackie for his perfect hat-trick, after a corner by Johnstone.
Scotland 6 – Switzerland 2
And it could have been more. Young Sam Eden had a shot saved after some excellent work down the right wing and Peter Mackay, having re-entered the fray, had a fizzing drive parried on to the bar late.
The one other moment of real drama in the second half followed an agricultural challenge from behind by Johnstone on one of the Swiss midfielders who screamed like he’d been hit by a volley of machine gun bullets and rolled over seven times, subsequently leaping to his feet and unleashing a barrage of sweary German at Doug, who, hands on hips, looked on with a puzzled expression. 1-0 the gaffer. Yellow card. Cuddles exchanged. Normal service resumed.
And 6-2 was how it stayed. A performance to be proud of for the whole team, with Mackie as an obvious man of the match, and special mentions for Scott, McCarthy and Quinn at the back, who looked pretty solid throughout.
Then the obligatory team photos, commiserations, congratulations, you get the idea.
Anyone fancy a beer? Does the pope wear a funny hat?
An air of slightly smug contentment is palpable. A generous buffet is mercilessly slain, and we gradually move off in dribs and drabs in preparation for the evening’s event.
Following a meal at a nearby Spanish restaurant, we piled into Atlantis, the venue for the evening’s readings, a few tunes from a couple of dudes on the Alpenhorn, various introductions and the readings began.
Everyone who read was fantastic on the night. Performances to be really proud of across the board again, and to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra, age cannot wither us or custom stale our infinite variety. A tremendously varied selection, with the Norse whirr of the right honourable Peter Mackay’s Hebridean tones engendering its usual sense of slightly bewildered fascination, and Karyn’s piece on the bafflingly uneasy truce between football and womanhood pretty much bringing the house down. Great performances by the Swiss as well, including some yodelling (who knew?), who were incredibly generous and gracious hosts, that we won’t forget.
As Tam said in his Facebook post; “These laddies. These lassies. Just the best”