EURO 2008: Turkish fans provoked in several Swiss cities13 June 2008

Travelling Turkey supporters and local migrant youth joined together in the centre of Basel to celebrate their team's narrow 2-1 victory over hosts Switzerland on Wednesday evening.

Whereas things remained calm and peaceful for the most part in and around the St. Jakob-Park after the host nation's exit from the tournament, fighting broke out between frustrated locals and Turkish fans in several Swiss towns and cities. Police had to intervene in Basel, Zurich, Winterthur, Aarau and Kreuzlingen, and 85 people were arrested, 25 of them in Basel. According to monitoring by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and media reports, members of far-right groups openly sought to provoke Turkish supporters.

The square outside Basel railway station was cordoned off until well after midnight amid fears of further outbreaks of rightwing violence. After the game police arrested several rightwing extremists who had been throwing bottles etc. at them. The police also used rubber bullets.

In the shopping arcade inside Zurich railway station rightwing skinheads shouted racist abuse just before one o'clock. But the Turkish fans refused to be provoked.

In Aarau, a town between Basel and Zurich, around 200 Swiss attempted to provoke some 400 Turkey fans who were celebrating peacefully. Some scuffles broke out and 14 people were taken into custody. Almost 200 police officers were deployed.

Basel community
In the Basel districts north of the Rhine, where one in six residents are Turkish nationals, there were no serious incidents. A conspicuously large number of Switzerland supporters gathered in the district of Kleinbasel around Claraplatz square. Only a few kebab stands sported Turkish flags, as large numbers of Kurds live here. Fears that Kurdish groups would use the game to make anti-Turkish statements proved groundless, however. The host City of Basel attempted to contribute to a positive atmosphere with announcements in Turkish on public transport. Inside the stadium supporters displayed a banner with message “Switzerland-Turkey football unites”.

Media constraint

Ahead of the match the Swiss media showed incredible composure in dealing with the controversial clashes between Turkey and Switzerland of two-and-half years ago. On securing qualification for the World Cup in Istanbul on 16 November 2005, the Switzerland players were forced to flee the pitch after the final whistle amid violent scenes on the way to the dressing room. The tabloid Blick was the only newspaper to play on anti-Turkish sentiment with the headline “We haven't forgotten”. In contrast, the headline in sister paper Blick am Abend read “Turks must beat Turks”, referring to the important contribution of Switzerland players Murat Yakin, Gökhan Inler and Eren Derdiyok, all of whom were born in Switzerland to Turkish parents.