Posted: 7/28/2008


     Bellinzona is part of Switzerland, the capital of the Province of Tocino in fact, but you would think you were in Italy in this Italian speaking region near Lakes Magiorre and Lugano and at he strategic St. Gothard Pass and tunnel.

   I have passed through the little station numerous times between Switzerland and Italy, but never stopped there, and what have I missed? A delightful 'gem' of a small town with three castles, one in the town centre and two in the mountains about 1,000 meters up , and all of them look very dramatic, floodlit at this evening match..

   My goal is to watch 4 Swiss League matches in 4 days in three different language areas and two countries, since FC Vaduz from Liechtenstein play in the league and have just been promoted to the top tier, the Axpo Super League for the very first time.  First I tour the small main street and visit the delightful Town Hall, just 4 stories high but with an inner courtyard with murals .

     The little stadium, Stadio Communale, is maybe 400 metres from the center and the club AS Bellizona are playing their first home match of the season in the top tier, after an 18 year absence. There are only 10 teams at this level, and 18 at the next tier, the Swiss Challenge League.The referee is a female, Nicole Petignat, wearing one of those white sweat bands around her hair - uggg.!  The opponents are Neuchatel Xamas whose large and modern stadium I will go past a few days later on a ferry boat on the Lake Neuchatel in French speaking Switzerland, on the way to my 4th match nearby. There are about 1,200 fans in the main stand and standing on the other three sides on terraces or the grass banking, with Castelgrande towering behind the far terrace. Above the castle and in the stadium flies the 'serpent' flag of the town. The two other castles, Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro are high behind one

      The far side standing room stand is ony 8-9 rows high but for this opening match the fans display a card section in the colours of granata and white, just like the colours of AS Roma with who they are associated and sometimes have 'development' players on loan. I am in the little press stand with about 20 journalists, and 3 TV cameras are present plus 8 photo journalists. ASB go behind after 29 minutes but equalize in the 52nd minute. Xamas, who have brought about 50 vocal fans with them, get all 3 points with the winning goal in the 65th minute. At the half I walk outside the stadium and sit on a bench by the Bar Granata and enjoy a cooling gelato.

     After the match the fans go into town to the gelateria ice cream cafes and sit outside in the warm evening and chat. Not much else is happening, apart from a live blues cafe near the train station. Italian ice cream has less butter fat than in USA and it's more like ice milk, so that you can taste the subtle flavours easier.

     By reaching last seasons Swiss Cup final Bellinzona are playing in the UEFA CUP. They won 1-0 at FC Ararat Yerevon in Armenia and play the home leg this Thursday.