Sept. 13, 2005
After travelling yesterday, I awoke at the early hour of two in the afternoon today. My body, confused by the time change, could have sworn it was only nine in the morning. I was convinced that I must not have reset the time on my watch and was forced to confirm the time by looking at several other clocks before accepting the fact that I had already wasted half of the day.
I quickly ate some breakfast (or lunch-whatever you want to call it) and left to workout. When I exited the bus at the training field something new struck my eye. In the middle of this big park, surrounded by acres of lush green soccer fields and our hammer throw practice area sat a heap of sand. Everything was green, even the tall thick forest surrounding the park -- except in the middle was sand and bleachers.
It was the opposite of an oasis.
Upon further inspection I discovered that it was a beach volleyball stadium (no kidding). Surprisingly, this land-locked mountainous country of Switzerland has been the European capital of beach volleyball in recent history. The men have had the most success with a bronze medal in Athens and three of the top-10 teams in the world. Without sand or beaches in Bern, sand was hauled in via truck to provide a makeshift court for the 2005 Swiss Championships.
The stands were surprisingly full. It just shows that Switzerland, being a small country, supports what few international successes it has. Be it skiing, bobsledding, triathlon, or even curling, the Swiss support their stars. However, in the winter sports, it is not quite as easy to pick out the Swiss competitors. In sports such as beach volleyball, they stand out quite blatantly in comparison with the bronzed skinned Brazilians and Southern Californians.
Despite this oddity, I continued with my training. My legs felt like heavy stones due to fatigue and I had trouble moving quickly. However, my technique was consistent and the session therefore satisfied me. With time, my legs will feel rested again.
I headed back towards the bus stop after training. The bus promptly arrived and dozens of people with black and yellow striped clothing exited. All looked like bumble bees. After inquiring with one of them I found out that they were headed to the evening's soccer match at the local stadium. The colors for the local team, Young Boys Bern (YBB), are yellow and black. I decided to tag along and purchased a ticket to the game.
The YBB are playing their first season in the brand new Stade de Suisse. The stadium seats over 30,000 spectators and is one of the largest in Switzerland. This evening, over 25,000 spectators arrived to watch YBB face FC Thun. With fewer than 150,000 citizens in Bern, the turnout was quite high. Thun lies a short distance up the river Aare from Bern. FC Thun's surprising success last season earned them a spot in the prestigious Champions League (a league of the top European clubs). Both teams are tied in the standing for the Swiss league and much was at stake in this early-season match.
The crowd near me in the upper deck was fairly sedate. Down below, on the other hand, the opposite was the case. Fans were on their feet waving flags through the entirety of the match. They yelled and whistled as loud as they could and somehow managed to raise their volume even higher whenever the ball came within range of the goal. But all the fan support did not help the offense. Despite several close efforts by both teams, the game ended scoreless. Both teams earned one point in the standings and remained tied overall.