Like a movie or a novel, football is a kind of drama in which some of the passions that man has recreated a thousand times are staged under very different expressive formats.
The fan has not normally read Homer, but he has seen Braveheart in the cinema, so that he is familiar with the affairs of the epic.. We are moved by the incredible audacity and bravery of some barbarians led by William Wallace who fight for their freedom in the face of the precise machinery of oppression of Edward I of England. And we also like, at the European Championship, to see the Swiss win against the French. Ultimately they suppose different versions of a topic that is also collected in the Bible: the fight between David and Goliath.
Switzerland is a small country with eight times fewer inhabitants than France. For the Spanish it is the land of Heidi, chocolate, watches and skiing. The Gallic country, by contrast, is a world power in all areas, including football. In war normally the weak succumb, which arouses our sympathy for the loser who fights knowing his tragic fate. There are the 300 Spartans giving up their lives to stop the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. But in soccer, power is not everything. Unlike what happens in other sports (tennis or basketball, for example), in football a Segunda B like Alcorcón or Irún can drop from the Copa del Rey to the European champion himself, Real Madrid. Chance plays an important role: it is enough that the stick of my goal that day seems like a magnet for the opponents’ shots or that, although my team is worse, luck ally with us in the only dangerous play that we are capable of create throughout the party.
In the France-Switzerland most of the Spanish fans supported the Alpine country. It could be argued that, given that Spain’s next rival would come out of the game, the fans wanted the victory of those who, in theory, were more affordable. It is an instrumental, strategic reason.
But in football, emotional reasons predominate. Some are historical: as is often the case with neighbors, the Spanish and the French have had countless disagreements for centuries. Quevedo and other writers of his time were already denigrating the “gabacho.” When Spain was the greatest power in Europe, the French considered us haughty and proud. Today, the stereotype paints the French as a chauvinist.
But beyond the historical enmities, we identify with Switzerland against France because we consider that – like Don Quixote – we must align ourselves with the one who has everything to lose. And even more we like to see them win because it gives us the feeling that in life not everything is written in advance and that anything is possible. We vibrate with the victory of a country the size of Extremadura and we are happy about Mbappé’s wrong penalty because we need to believe that the powerful don’t always win, that the rich also cry and that the billionaires and famous Pogba, Griezmann, Mbappé and Benzema were not able to subdue a group of strangers, who achieved the feat because they put effort and faith, something within the reach of any of us.
Uderzo and Goscinny invented the village of irreducible Gauls who rose up courageously and defiantly against imperial and colonial Rome. But in France-Switzerland it was two Swiss players -Seferovic and Sommer-, who disguised themselves as Asterix and Obélix, the first to score two goals and the other to stop Mbappé.
Four days later, Spain had to wait for the penalty shootout to subdue Switzerland, who defended themselves like a cat upside down, playing with one less from minute 76 for a red card, at least debatable. During overtime, Yann Sommer stopped absolutely everything. He even got a penalty from Rodri in the final round.
This time we had to win. In supreme luck. But it was the Swiss goalkeeper who reminded us again why this sport excites us.