Picture the scene: 28th May 1952. The Swiss Hardturm Stadium is buzzing. The national team lines up in their red shirts. Flags of the same color fly in the stands. The opponents? England. A formidable team that would reach the quarter finals of the World Cup in the same country two years later. The national anthems begin to play. God save the Queen rings out. The boys in white and the away fan contingent sing out, probably just getting used to singing "Queen" not "King" with Her Majesty Elizabeth II just over a month into a reign that will last over 60 years.
As the anthem plays, awkwardness spreads among the 33,000 Swiss fans. They shuffle their feet. They know what's coming next.
When the same tune strikes up once, the England supporters think there's been some kind of mistake. Do they sing again?
This was probably the moment when it hit the Swiss nation that their national anthem wasn't theirs alone. You see, although the words to "Rufst du, mein Vaterland" were different, the melody was identical to God save the Queen (The Swiss weren't the only ones to pinch our tune, by the way – Iceland, Hawaii, Russia and Germany all previously set their national songs to the melody. Lichtenstein still uses it today). You can hear the Swiss version by clicking on the image below.
Whether that match was a catalyst or not is impossible to say, but the Swiss did eventually decide to change their national anthem.
The Swiss Psalm
The first time I heard the Psalm was when we went to watch the Swiss ice hockey team play. I must confess I was a little underwhelmed. At a sporting event in particular, a good national anthem is one that can be belted out. That's tricky with the Swiss one. And probably any psalm for that matter.
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Mike Stuart moved to Switzerland in 2013 when his better half Zoë landed a job in Zurich.