It may be difficult for some people to understand but it really isn’t possible to live without football to watch and a local team to support. All the so called Manchester United fans who live in London and Arsenal fans who live in Leeds, who only watch any football on tv, haven’t got it. I need football to hand to feel at home in a place!
So when I got an interview in 1995 for a post with the World Council of Churches, I checked out the football possibilities. Servette FC had a good history in the Swiss league and European competitions. So my visit to Geneva included my personal intention to visit their ground to get a feel for things. However, I found they had a home match so I went along. Yes, I thought, I’d be OK here. So the decision to accept the WCC job was easy!
In the 13 years I watched them (when the fixtures didn’t clash with Man City’s home matches) I was able to enjoy a league title win and a cup final. Lots of European matches too. Then came the curse of the new ground. The old characterful stadium was replaced by a new stadium in preparation for the 2008 European Football Championship hosted in Switzerland and Austria. At the same time the club fell into the hands of the incompetent, having goodwill but lacking resources, and finally a fraudster (later convicted). The club went bust. It was reformed and, for complicated reasons, was able to resume in the third level rather than lower down the pyramid. Servette quickly climbed back to the second level where it has become becalmed.
So thank you, Servette for giving me the kind of excitement and heartache that is the lot of the football fan. Thank you for giving me something I could share with people who weren’t ecumenicalists or part of the international community.
Happy Birthday, Servette! May the next years be more pleasure than pain.