DUNTON, England – The second film in Ford’s Fascinating World of Football series is now available. The film features Europe's highest pitch, in Gspon, Switzerland.
The series offers an insight into real stories about the beautiful game involving a mix of professional teams and football icons. In each one, Ford’s all-new smart people mover, the Tourneo Custom, plays a key role, from taking priests to play football at the Vatican to driving a team of amputee footballers to a game in London.
“I look at big games like the UEFA Champions League on TV and think how amazing it must be to play in one of the big stadiums. But then I take the cable car to our pitch, 2,000 metres up in the mountains, and see the panorama from here.”
Lukas Furrer is a striker with FC Gspon, a village football team near the ski resort of Zermatt in Switzerland. Gspon would be no different to thousands of other village football teams across Europe – except for their pitch. At two kilometres (1.6 miles) above sea level, it ranks as the highest in Europe. At this time of year, in mid-winter, it is covered in snow as part of a ski field, but in summer it is a rare piece of flat ground in the Swiss Alps that offers the nearby residents the chance to compete in the local leagues.
It is so high that the playing surface is artificial, as grass cannot grow reliably. The pitch is about three-quarters size and resembles a five-a-side venue more than an 11-a-side pitch.
Gspon itself is little more than a cluster of ski and summer holiday chalets. There is not even a road to the hamlet. Mustering a team of fit players is a struggle so the team is largely one imported from Staldenried, at the other end of the cable car a few hundred metres below.
“We might be known for the pitch but we’re a serious team,” says the coach and team founder, Roland Abgottspon. His team-talk is a fearsome routine, putting fire in the bellies of his players. It pays off. In 2012, they finished 3rd in their league. In previous years they have been champions. Gspon has also hosted the European mountain villages’ football championships
The season at Gspon defers to Mother Nature. It starts as the snow melts in late spring and ends as the snows threaten again in the autumn.
For the last game of the 2012 season, temperatures in the mountains were high by local standards, at 25 degrees. Games have also been held in unseasonable blizzards. But the biggest physical challenge at this altitude is lack of oxygen.
“The teams who come here to play us know we have an advantage in the thin air. They find it hard to breathe,” Lukas says, carrying one of the balls donated by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was born in the nearby town of Visp.
Luckily the team have plenty of balls. Despite high netting around the pitch, an average of 7-10 balls per game end up bouncing over and potentially down the mountainside.
“We might have 70 people watching, not 70,000, but I’d rather be playing here than at the San Siro or Bernabeu,” says Lukas.
He and his team-mates might prefer their ground to one of the famous club venues, but there is one pitch they would like to try out – the highest pitch in the world, twice as high as this, in the South American Andes…
To view the film, click here: http://youtu.be/Y8RsoDV7cik
See the full story at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKQqkWWxnfk
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