Spitting scandal overshadows Swiss elimination

Football dominated the headlines

Switzerland’s elimination at the hands of France at Euro 2004 in Portugal was of secondary importance to the Swiss press.

This content was published on June 22, 2004 - 08:40

While most newspapers lavished praise on the Swiss for a spirited performance in the 3-1 loss, they devoted more space to the spitting affair surrounding striker Alex Frei.

A “theatrical ending”, said the “Tages-Anzeiger” in its lead.

The Zurich-based newspaper said the Swiss played well through 90 minutes but the spitting incident cast a dark shadow over the match.

Frei was suspended by Uefa for spitting at an opponent during Thursday’s match against England.

The Tages-Anzeiger defended Swiss television for taking the decision to show new footage on Sunday which clearly showed Frei spitting. The airing of the footage led Uefa, which had earlier cleared Frei, to suspend the striker.

The Zurich-based paper pointed an accusing finger at the Swiss Football Association, which has been accused of forcing Frei to lie.

Unpleasant overtime

“[Swiss coach] Kuhn and his team left the pitch after putting on an impressive show, while the Swiss football authorities are facing an unpleasant overtime.”

The tabloid “Blick” devoted one small headline and story to the match result, and seven pages to the scandal.

“National football players attack Swiss television commentator with toilet paper," screamed the Blick’s headline. But the paper also asked whether the Swiss Football Association had something to hide.

The French-language "Le Temps" chose to be less sensational, but the tenor was the same.

“Alex Frei certainly did spit, and the players denounce Swiss television” for acting against the interests of the Swiss team.

Bern’s “Der Bund” said it all in a two-word headline: “Swiss eliminated”.

However, it too said the “lies and twisting of the facts leaves a bad taste”.

Clear underdogs

The lead of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” said “a shadow remains” in connection with the scandal. But it went on to remind readers that the Swiss were the clear underdogs in their group, and were not able to overcome their weaknesses.

The “Berner Zeitung” failed to mention the result of the Switzerland–France match on its front page, deciding instead to highlight Uefa’s decision to suspend Frei.

Over a picture of Johan Vonlanthen celebrating after scoring Switzerland's only goal of the tournament, the “Basler Zeitung” said the “Swiss fought but it wasn’t enough”.

The 18-year-old Vonlanthen is the youngest player to score a goal at the European football championships.

The tabloid “Le Matin” ran a patriotic headline: “We were believers until the very end”, congratulating the Swiss for keeping France in check for more than 70 minutes.

The “Tribune de Genève” saw a silver lining, taking the match result and scandal in stride. “The Swiss have qualified… for Euro 2008!”

The next European Championships will be held in Switzerland and Austria, and the host countries’ teams will therefore qualify automatically.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

In brief

Switzerland lost 3-1 to France on Monday night.

Zinedine Zidane opened the scoring for the French in the 20th minute, but the Swiss equalised six minutes later through 18-year-old Johan Volanthen.

He became the youngest scorer in the tournament's history.

But Switzerland's challenge was ended by two second-half goals from Thierry Henry.

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