Young Boys of Bern – a club and a city

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By Mark Dingwall

Young Boys were formed when a group of students and younger players found themselves denied playing opportunities with the established FC Bern.  At that time a club from Basel known as Old Boys were doing well and that inspired the lads of Bern to form Young Boys.

They would overcome their old club in terms of popularity fairly quickly and establish themselves as one of the powers of Swiss football – in total they have now won the Swiss League thirteen times and the Swiss Cup six times.  FC Bern now play in the 2nd liga – which is about the 6th tier of Swiss football.

One of the club’s traditions is the “Young Boys Quarter Hour” – traditionally they have been very keen on fitness so that in the last 15 minutes of a game the fans expect the players to step up a gear and go on the attack.

In the last 40 years their fortunes have been mixed – normally playing decently but they went without winning the League for 32 years – until April 2018 when they beat Lucerne at home 2-1 to win the title.

They have a vibrant fan culture – around 27,000 season tickets in a  32,000 capacity ground.  Five or six of their fan groups came together to form the “Ost Curva” for fan displays – although they maintain different identities the groups come together inside the stadium.

Their rivalries change according mostly to who is doing well – in recent years Basel have been the big rivals – teams from Zurich always get a warm reception as that city is regarded as having a bit of a chip on its shoulder.  In the past it was Sion when they were doing well.

The sporting culture of the city is unusual – ice hockey is extremely popular in Bern – just across the road from the Wankdorf stadium is the home of the local ice hockey team – it has a 17,000 capacity and 16,000 season tickets are sold!


Anyone visiting is in for a treat – it’s a beautiful city built around the meandering river Aare.  It’s also the federal capital of Switzerland where the laws are made – as such it’s prosperous and often expensive city.  Previously it did have a fair bit of industry – so much so that when in exile Lenin moved to Bern (and held the famous Zimmerwald Conference nearby) but didn’t find much support amongst the workers.   

Nowadays the redevelopment of old buildings is mostly banned with owners having to work around preserving the various styles.  

The city centre has broad roads and pavements mostly under cover forming arcades where the shops – from ice-cream, to watches, to Swiss Army knives, to newsagents – are to be found.

The old centre is very picturesque with red flowers in window boxes being a matter of civic pride.

As you wander the centre you’ll notice street signs in various colours – blue, yellow, red, white, black – this is a hangover from when Napoleon occupied the town and directed the change so that his soldiers always had a rough idea of where they were in various sectors.

The city is 80% German-speaking – well, they speak Swiss Deutsch which is kinda like medieval German rather than the ‘High German’ spoken in Germany.  Newspaper and official correspondence is written in High German.   However, virtually all the locals speak both High German and English.

It is fairly expensive – a Young Boys shirt will cost you about £100 from the club shop.  The financial crisis has made the Swiss franc extremely powerful – great news for the Swiss taking holidays but making shopping for visitors expensive.  Take care and check before buying.

The symbol of the city is the bear – they used to have a bear-pit own by the river – now there’s an animal reserve where the bears can wander about to their heart’s content.


It’s got a great transport system of trains, trams and buses – you can buy a day ticket for 13 francs.

For a pint it can range from 5 francs to 8 francs – spirits are dear, often 10 francs or more.

Before games away fans often meet at the “Barenplatz” where they buy drinks in the supermarkets.

Young Boys blogger Max Power favours the Unsinkbar where spirits should be on a special of 5 francs, five minute walk from the station.  The Pickwick pub is popular with visiting fans but it is dear.

The Wankdorf stadium is five minutes walk from the bus/train/tram station of the same name.

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