Marathon Penalty Thriller Breaks New Ground
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Marathon Penalty Thriller Breaks New Ground

This had never happened before in the long history of the Credit Suisse Cup: All the matches were decided by a penalty shootout. But there was no shortage of emotion, excitement, and discussion – far from it.

The joy was boundless. "A brilliant feeling," said one junior high school student from the Bezirksschule Aarau, even before she received the trophy. Another one added: "It's almost impossible to explain, it's just wonderful." At the end of the final tournament in Basel, the team members were unanimous: "Our dedication paid off." This was the first time they had taken part in the Credit Suisse Cup, and they returned to the cantonal capital with nothing less than the championship trophy.

Something unprecedented in the 32-year history of the traditional schools football tournament was the way the event was run. Things had to be re-arranged on the morning of the finals because of the weather. The solution was to have penalty shootouts instead of full matches because of the saturated pitches at the sizable Basel St. Jakob sports ground; one-to-one duels between shooters and goalkeepers, a special kind of thrill executed several thousand times.

The nature of the tournament changed, but there was no question of it being a lottery. Great mental demands were placed on the individual shooters, and the goalkeepers too. The ones who scored were celebrated, those who missed were consoled. And for the goalies glory beckoned. "You have to be brave to take a penalty; it's a matter of life and death, a matter of not losing face in front of your teammates," one supervisor said, putting it in a nutshell.

By the end, there were 13 champion teams ready to be crowned: six boys' teams, six girls' teams, and one in the mixed category. There was often a lot of work, talent, and tactical skill behind their success. The Aarau girls mentioned at the start had a clear strategy in mind for the competition and this had brought them success. "We stuck strictly to our best lineup," said coach Christoph Alder. Only five of the squad of ten were needed. And as one of the five members of a football club was also the best goalkeeper, the problem of how to fill this position was easily solved. The players themselves had decided beforehand on these tactics and the win proved them right. The team had also prepared for the pitch conditions: low, hard, well-targeted shots, that was the strategy.

Where there was joy, there were also tears – and these emotions could not always be understood rationally. This applied to the fourth-graders from Menziken, for example: While the boys were bitterly disappointed about their lost final, the girls were over the moon about coming fourth. Around 3,000 schoolchildren who had made it through against other representatives from their canton took part in the final tournament in Basel. A total of around 150,000 children and young people took part in the 2016 Credit Suisse Cup.