Soccer-Swiss pride in multi-ethnic team will not alter immigration debate

jueves 3 de julio de 2014 12:18 GYT

By Joshua Franklin

ZURICH, July 3 (Reuters) - Swiss soccer fans talked of pride in defeat as they welcomed home their national team from the World Cup on Thursday, but cautioned the passions stirred by the multi-ethnic side would not impact the country's immigration debate.

Switzerland was glued to the TV on Tuesday as their side, led by a captain whose parents are Turkish and whose talisman was born in Kosovo, was knocked out of the tournament by a late goal against Argentina.

Hundreds of fans turned out in Zurich to give the Nati, as the national team is referred to in Switzerland, a hero's welcome after the heartbreaking defeat.

This was just five months after the country narrowly voted in favour of introducing tighter immigration controls, leading some to point to the high proportion of Swiss athletes who are first or second generation Swiss citizens.

A photo circulating on Twitter following the vote imagined the national soccer team without immigrants. All but three players were whited out of the picture.

The surprise victory of a Russian-born snowboarder nicknamed "I-Pod" at the Olympic Games in Sochi just days after the immigration vote also led to an ironic outpouring of national pride.

Fans who turned out to welcome the Nati home expressed their pride at the players' performance and said the team was a good example of cultural integration, but few thought this would spill over into politics.

"I think that politics and sport shouldn't be mixed with one another," said Dani Seiler, a 32-year old office clerk, on the sidelines of event for the Swiss team in Zurich.   Continuación...