Young Boys Wankdorf erection relief
July 31, 2005
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BERN, Switzerland, July 31 (Reuters) - The supporters of Young Boys Bern have not had too much to celebrate in the 19 years since their team last won the Swiss league title.

Long since eclipsed by the likes of FC Basel and Grasshoppers Zurich, the club from the Swiss capital has even got a reputation for enjoying its status as a perennial loser.

But this weekend Young Boys sought to shake off their old image by officially opening the 32,000 Stade de Suisse Wankdorf stadium -- which cost 350 million Swiss francs ($271.3 million) -- with an uncharacteristically flashy homecoming party.

'I'm extremely happy, because I'm convinced this is the stadium from which Young Boys can finally launch themselves back into sporting success,' Swiss president, and Bern native, Samuel Schmid told spectators just before Saturday's show got underway.

Looking on as acrobats, musicians and dancers took to the pitch, the stadium's private investors gladly shared Schmid's enthusiasm while insisting the financial viability of the overall complex does not depend solely on the team's success.

'We have learned a lot from the multifunctional stadium at FC Basel,' stadium board president Benno Oertig told Reuters.

'When you look at the total investment, it's clear that we had to have other sources of income than just the football, which is why we have a supermarket, shops, offices and even a school included in the complex.'

'But of course the performance of the football club will have an important knock-on effect.

'We have calculated for average crowds of around 15,000 per match and are also targeting at least a third place finish in the league this season. That might put some pressure on the club, but you need pressure if you want to succeed.'

Fortunately for team coach Hans-Peter Zaugg, the club's backers also appreciate the need to invest in players.

Working to a budget of about 8.5 million Swiss francs -- surpassed in Swiss football only by FC Basel's estimated 30 million -- Zaugg made eight pre-season signings.

The most notable coup was convincing Switzerland midfielder and former Basel hero Hakan Yakin to join the club.

Having won both their opening away matches to take an early lead at the top of the Swiss standings, Young Boys already look prepared for their season of change.

'The building of the new stadium certainly played a part in my coming here,' Yakin told Reuters on Saturday.

'I'd already seen what a new home can do for a team during my time at Basel -- so now it's up to us players to put in performances that will bring in the supporters.'

Despite the recently appended Stade de Suisse title, the new Wankdorf does not have any official status as a national stadium and will share the staging of international matches with the other new Swiss grounds in Basel and Geneva.

The future hosts for Swiss Cup finals -- previously held exclusively in Bern -- is also still to be decided.

The Bern stadium is, however, already set to stage three group matches at the 2008 European Championships, marking a return to the international stage more than half a century after the old Wankdorf hosted the 1954 World Cup final.

Back in those days, Young Boys had something of a giant-killing reputation in Europe and even reached the semi-finals of the 1959 European Cup.

A second round defeat to Olympic Marseille in this season's Intertoto Cup reminded Bern's supporters that European glory is still a long way off.

Thanks to the new home, though, domestic success no longer looks quite so impossible.

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