The club was founded in 1893 and interestingly enough gave birth to the mighty FC Barcelona – one of the earliest captains of FC Basel, Joan Gamper, moved to Spain and was one of the founders of the Catalonian club. And not only that: according to one version, the famous blue and red kit of Barcelona copied Basel’s colours, thanks to Gamper. There are other stories for Barcelona’s kit, but whatever the real one is, Basel is some reason for the existence of Barcelona, yet, the ‘mother’ club never achieved the fame of the ‘child’. Basel won its first Swiss title in 1953 and until 1967 it was solitary title. The most successful years of the club started in 1966 and lasted until 1980 – in 1972 Basel added fifth title to the previous from 1953, 1967, 1969, and 1970.
The team was a typical Swiss squad, captained by the best Swiss player at the time Karl Odermatt. What different times! If it was now, the striker-midfielder would have been snatched by some of the big European clubs, but in 1972 there was no chance or even player’s desire to move abroad. Odermatt was probably underappreciated in Europe – he was good, but playing with insignificant teammates in insignificant league, he hardly impressed anybody but the Swiss. The other star player was the goalkeeper Marcel Kunz, also playing in the national team. Rene Hasler, Walter Balmer, and Walter Mundschin were more or less good players and that was that. But an interesting foreigner strengthened the squad: the West German Ottmar Hitzfeld. Yes, the famous contemporary coach! Not much of a player, though, which speaks for the level of Swiss football in the early 1970s. The biggest curiousity, however, is in something else: Hitzfeld wanted to play at the Olympic Games, and that was his reason for moving to the Swiss club. His scheme worked: he became Swiss champion; maintained his amateur status; and played for West Germany in the Summer Olympics 1972, ending with bronze medal. Which at the end only deepens the enigma of Swiss football – was it a professional one, since foreigners were able to stay amateur by Olympic requirements? How were the players, particularly foreign ones, paid, if they were officially amateurs? Switzerland is expensive country – how was Hitzfeld, for instance, paying his daily expenses if he was not professional player? Questions, or no questions, FC Basel were champions, finishing 4 points ahead of FC Zurich and losing only one match during the season. Hitzfeld had to wait many, many years until adding another title to his resume – as a coach.
Thanks to Igor Nedbaylo for the Stadion photos!