Football is a great game, that we all agree about. It can create some of the most special friendships in your life. Some of these people will be your friends forever, even if you can’t stand each others club. The Beautiful Game brought me to a passionate supporter. A man who would give his heart and soul for his club: FC Basel.
I knew Basel are a Swiss side who play in blue and red. But the curious football fan inside me wanted to know more about this club. So I started looking for the history behind a club who will soon celebrate their 120th anniversary. On the 12th November 1893. Basel. The Basler National Newspaper publishes an advert under the title of ‘Football Game’. According to this advert, friends of the game are invited on the next Wednesday to discuss the founding of a new football club.
Eleven men answer the advert and meet each other on Wednesday. It sounds like a coincidence to have eleven men showing up, but the number also is symbolic. Eleven men are needed to form a football team. It is on 15 November 1893 that these men found the club.
Some of them have little experience with football, though these men want to start a football club. They mainly are looking for a sport which can be combined with rowing. Others are open-minded academics. They hope to use football as a way to escape from a narrow minded way of thinking.
One of the eleven men is Ferdinand Isler. He’s a professor at the Cantonal School in Fraudenfeld. As a great supporter of the game, Isler makes a brochure of this new sport, he translates the rules from English into German and becomes one of the first sports journalists in Swiss media.
The founding members pick Roland Geldner as their first Club President. Geldner is said to be a very sophisticated and an extraordinarily talented footballer. According to Jean Grieder, who takes notes of the meeting, Roland Geldner also is the club’s first ever sponsor: “The pitch and the footballs were made available by Roland Geldner and gratefully accepted. The pitch will be installed in the coming days in order to start play on November 26th.” The gentlemen are in a hurry. They didn’t meet in a smoke filled room on 15th November 1893 to talk. They wanted to find a way to play football as quickly as possible.
The first ever match in the history of FC Basel lasts two hours and it ends with a win for FCB on 20th November 1893. It is a match between the first team and the reserves. As historic as this match may be it could not be called ‘official’. The actual ‘official first’ match takes place two weeks later on December 10th 1893, FC Basel takes on Realschülerturnverein Basel and beat them 2:0.
Over a hundred years later In the autumn of 2003, Basel establish a new Swiss record by winning all of their first 13 games in the Swiss Super League. The previous record of 11 consecutive victories was held by Servette Geneva. FCB goes into the winter break with 52 points from 18 games, a lead of 14 points over the second placed Young Boys Berne. For the 2004/2005 season, Basel made five signings to strengthen the squad. They welcome César Andrés Carignano, Kléber, Mladen Petric, Mile Steriovski and Thomas Mandl. In addition, the transfer of the promising French youngster Djamel Mesbah is secured. In 2009, Basel were unable to win the Swiss Championship title. After ten years at the helm, the enormously sucsessful head coach Christian Gross will be replaced by former FC Bayern Munich player Thorsten Fink. After a difficult start to the season under new head coach Thorsten Fink, Basel make remarkable progress and climb up the Championship table. In the spring of 2011, FC Basel win the title by a one point lead over FC Zurich. This secured the 14th Championship in the club’s history. It was also the second in a row for Thorsten Fink and his staff.
Last season, Basel achieved to become the first ever Swiss club to reach the semi finals in the UEFA Europa League. In the quarter finals, they managed to beat Tottenham Hotspur on penalties. But it was Chelsea who ended their European campaign. This season Basel are once again sitting atop the Swiss Super League, could it be 5 in a row and the 17th league title in their history for Basel?