Did you know that around 10,000 football matches are held in Switzerland every weekend? This is how much the Swiss love the sport. Football is not only the most popular participatory sport in Switzerland but also the most popular spectator sport. Those who do not play football love to watch the matches in stadiums or on their TV screens.
Although the national football team has not achieved much success internationally, the Swiss continue to revere the sport and prefer it over others. Besides being the most popular sport in the country, the main international bodies of football also have their head offices in Switzerland, including UEFA in Nyon and FIFA in Zurich. You will also find the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.
Interested in learning more about football in Switzerland? Here is all you need to know.
History of Football in Switzerland
Football first came to attention in Switzerland with the formation of the first football club in the country in 1806, the Lausanne Football and Cricket Club. A group of English students established the club, the first one formed outside the UK.
While football continued to gain popularity across Switzerland in the following years, it was not until 1895 that the official governing body, the Swiss Football Association, was formed. To date, it is the highest football professional body in the country. The organisation is one of the founding members of FIFA, formed in 1904 and became a member of the UEFA in 1954.
Swiss National Football Team
The Swiss men’s national football team has been playing internationally since 1905 and is currently in 12th place in the FIFA rankings. In 1924, the team won a silver medal in the Olympics. The men’s team has participated in 12 FIFA World Cup tournaments, whereby its most prominent performances include its appearance in three quarterfinals in 1934, 1938, and 1954.
Switzerland hosted the world cup in 1954, where it reached the quarterfinal against Austria but lost the match. The match ended in 7-5, which is the highest score in any World Cup match. In 2006, Switzerland was eliminated from the World Cup without conceding a single goal, which was also a first. The team was eliminated after its match against Ukraine in Round sixteen, where the team lost after penalties.
The men’s team has played in the UEFA Euro Championship five times and reached the quarterfinals in 2020, which is its best performance to date. Switzerland co-hosted the UEFA Euro Championship in 2008 with Austria. Before 2016, the team could not make it past the group stage, but in 2016 it reached the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals in 2020.
The Swiss women’s national football team is currently in 21st place in the FIFA rankings. The team played its first international match against France in 1972. The team has appeared in the FIFA World Cup twice. Its best performance to date is when it reached the group of 16 in 2015.
The team has also appeared twice in the UEFA Euro Championship in 2017 and 2022 and reached the group stage both times.
Domestic football competitions in Switzerland
Switzerland has an extensive league system with various cup competitions. The most prominent tournament is the Swiss Cup. This event was first introduced in 1925 and has been held ever since. The event’s winner qualifies to play in the UEFA Europa Conference League or the UEFA Europa League, depending on Switzerland’s ranking in the UEFA coefficients ranking system.
The premier football league in Switzerland is the Super League. The league was established in 1898 as Swiss Serie A. In 1933, it was renamed Nationalliga A, and in 2003, it was rebranded to establish the Super League. The league comprises ten teams; however, the number has been increased to 12 for the 2023-24 season. The most successful team in the Super League is Grasshopper from Zurich, with 27 titles. However, the current champion is Zurich, which won its first title in 2022.
The Super League follows a promotion and relegation system with the Challenge League, the second-highest football division in Switzerland. The league was established in 1898 as Swiss Serie B, and in 1944, it was rebranded as Nationalliga B. In 2003, it was renamed to Challenge League. The league comprises ten teams, with FC Winterthur as the current champions.
The Promotions League is the third-highest football division in Switzerland, with 18 teams. It is followed by the First League International and First League Classic, with more leagues further down the ranking pyramid.
For women, the top league is the Women’s Super League, founded in 1970. It comprises ten teams and follows a promotion and relegation system with Nationalliga B, Switzerland’s second-highest women’s football division.