Thursday 14 December 2017

Dreams, cows and cuckoos as media circus rolls into town

THE man from The Sun newspaper was nothing if not persistent with Swiss full back Bernt Haas who was the focus of attention for the English media pack at yesterday's press conference. "So tell us Bernt, have you dreamed about the England game?" he asked.

THE man from The Sun newspaper was nothing if not persistent with Swiss full back Bernt Haas who was the focus of attention for the English media pack at yesterday's press conference.

"So tell us Bernt, have you dreamed about the England game?" he asked.

"No," replied Haas.

"Will you dream about it tonight?"


"If you dream about it what you dream of?"

"Oh, making good runs and scoring the winning goal."

Not great copy in that for your average Ingerland reader, so the intrepid hack turned to a different tack and produced a book on Switzerland which had picture of Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and a cow. The tennis star was presented with Juliet, a dairy cow, after winning the Wimbledon title last year.

"It would be a nice gesture to give the team 23 cows if you beat England, wouldn't it?"

"Yes," laughed Bernt. "All 23 cows at the airport." he giggled.

"What would you do with yours?" asked the reporter in all seriousness.

"Eat him, perhaps with gravy!" spluttered the disbelieving Haas.

As somebody who currently earns their living in England, Haas is well used to English people and their strange views of Switzerland.

"When I was at Sunderland people would ask me where I was from. When I said Switzerland they asked me were there any shops there."

The Sun were present in force at the magnificent Praia del Rey complex overlooking a calm Atlantic Ocean.

One of their reporters dressed up in Lederhosen and presented the Swiss players with a cuckoo clock that had a cow coming out of the shutters inside of a bird.

The reporter even got interviewed for Swiss television and Swiss coach Kobi Khun reckoned his antics brought a few more smiles to the camp.

"I don't think the man with the cuckoo clock was a sign of disrespect. We like some jokes sometimes," he said.

The Swiss media have also got in the act by publishing a David Beckham voodoo doll in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country. The captain that accompanied Beckham doll reads: "Help give England heavy legs on June 17. Let's all rip this page out, pin it on the wall and stick in nails, needles and staples. If we believe it will work, then it will."

While The Sun reporters had the Swiss camp in stitches yesterday morning there are a few showmen within their squad.

Skipper and goalkeeper Jorg Stiel may have caused a few heartbeats to flutter in the Alps on Sunday against Croatia when he allowed a ball to bounce over his head and eventually used his head to stop it crossing the line.

But the eccentric goalkeeper claimed yesterday that it was just a joke.

"I would never risk something against my team. It was not show because there is no priority for that, it is always about the performance for the team.

"It was spontaneous at that moment. You can't really explain it. There was no risk. It was fun and I need fun to play soccer."

There is no doubt that compared to the English, the Swiss are more fun to be around.

Yesterday, every one of their squad arrived in a room at the Marriott Hotel at 9am and sat down at 23 tables to talk to the press for half-an-hour. Nobody was refused an audience and even after Kobi Khun's press conference the players were still doing interviews in the hotel lobby prior to heading off to training.

The media are also welcome at their training sessions and the players do interviews on the pitch afterwards. Most can converse fluently in French, German, Italian and English and everyone is laid back.

It's a world apart from the England camp. Journalists can't get within 100 yards of the Solplay Hotel Apartments just outside Lisbon. So paranoid is the FA that the players might read something negative in the newspapers that they have ordered the hotel shop not to stock English papers during their stay there.

The English FA have erected a marquee on a piece of waste ground at their training ground but getting into it is like going through departures at JFK Airport.

The security guards take the registration details of every vehicle entering the compound and conduct a thorough search looking under seats and in the boot.

Access to the players is carefully controlled and those selected for the daily press conference are brought to the media tent by car with security guards.

The English press made much of the Swiss players having Monday off with their families, prompting 'Nookie' headlines aplenty.

But despite the supposed lack of respect, those from the land of cuckoo clocks firmly believe they can call time on England's hopes.

Gerry McDermott
in Praia del Rey

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