Switzerland continued searching for the optimum formula – after the league was reduced to 12 clubs, a new enlargement started. 14 teams played in 1979-80 and the formula of the championship was new: after the first standard phase, the top 6 clubs entered a final phase. But the rest of the league finished with the first phase – there was no more promotion/relegation tournament. The standings were final and the last 2 clubs were relegated. The top two of normally played second league were promoted.
FC Bellinzona won the second division championship. With 38 points, they clinched first place by a single point difference, but otherwise it was remarkable season – the champions did not lose even one match: 12 wins and 14 ties. Impeccable defense – just 14 goals received. Bellinzona was returning to the top league apparently strong.
FC Nordstern (Basel) finished second – strong period for the small club, although they were not really competitive when playing with the best. But they were strong in the second league – missed first place by a single point, but finished with the best striking record – they scored almost twice as many goals than the champions. And they were without rivals – third placed Winterthur was trailing 5 points behind, not a challenger.
The first phase of the top league – and final for most participants – had a hopeless outsider:
FC Lugano is not even worth mentioning – they won only one match and tied 5. The rest was losses… and they were last with 7 points.
More competitive, but still outsiders, FC La Chaux-de-Fonds finished with 17 points. Three points less than the 12th finisher, Xamax. Down they went with Lugano.
After the first phase the top 6 moved to the final phase, carrying half of the points they earned in the first stage. This was also the trouble, noticed in the previous years, and forcing the Federation to change the format again: some clubs had nothing to play for. Servette, Grasshopper(s), and FC Basel were the top three after the first stage. There was a bit of a gap between them and the next three – FC Luzern, FC Zurich, and FC Sion. It was pretty much clear that the lower three would just go through the motions, having no real chance to win the title. Servette was seemingly the favourite after the first stage – they lost only 3 matches and finished with 2 points lead. Which was reduced to 1 point after the initial points were halved… and the top three started the final phase almost equal. Now Servette stumbled, perhaps spending its energy in the first phase of the championship.
FC Luzern distinguished itself with seemingly not paying attention to the final phase – in the 10 final games, they tied a single match and lost the rest, scoring 4 goals and receiving 38 – more than they received in the 26 matches of the first stage. Clearly, not interested…
FC Zurich was at good form at the final stage and pushed as much as they could, but the handicap of the first stage prevented them from coming even close to the medals.
The battle for the title was between the initial top three clubs – or may be just between two of them, for Servette underperformed.
Top row from left: Locca (Coach), Piet Hamberg, Gerald Coutaz, Peter Pazmandy (Trainer), Roger Cohannier (Präsident), Comte (Artzt), Jean-Luc Martin, Serge Trinchero, Lucio Bizzini
Middle row: Karl Engel, Charles Dupuis, Favre (Pfleger), Guy Dutoit, Christian Matthey, Gianfranco Seramondi, Claude Milani
Crouching: Franco Cucinotta, Gilbert Guyot, Claude Sarrasin, Umberto Barberis, Jean-Yves Valentini, Claude “Didi” Andrey, Marc Schnyder.
It was not a big flop, but Servette lost 4 matches in the final stage and got 11 points – less than their competitors, which at the end place them 3rd, losing silver on worse goal-difference.
Grasshoppers, 3rd in the first stage, moved a place higher in the final stage. 13 points were the second best performance in the final, which only equalized them with Servette – but they had better goal-difference and got the silver medals.
FC Basel was strong second in the first phase, finishing 2 points behind Servette. Halving the initial points for the second stage reduced the gap to one point and FC Basel seemingly kept their best for the most important part of the championship. They excelled in the final group, finishing on top with 14 points. Thus, their combined record was also best – 33 points. Two more than the rivals had.
8th title for FC Basel – a strong ending of successful decade.
Well done, but… it was largely anonymous squad. In recent past Basel had some more recognizable names. The obligatory 2 foreigners did not ring a bell at all: the French midfielder Serge Gaisser (b. 1958), and the West German striker Detlev Lauscher (b. 1952). The big figure was the coach – Helmut Benthaus, a West German, already recognized as the one responsible for Basel’s success. Which was also the liability: it was very unlikely a good coach would stay with relatively small club for long. 1967-80 are considered the best period in the history of Basel and the end of it depended on the coach – it came in 1982, when Benthaus left. But the sign was in the air already: the squad was almost anonymous and decline was inevitable.
The Cup final opposed not the favourites of the championship, but small fry. FC Sion to Young Boys (Bern).
Young Boys played and lost the cup final the previous year. To reach the final right away was quite a surprise for a club of the lower half of the league for years. This year they finished 10th , so there was not much to the team even by Swiss standards.
FC Sion was 6th after the first stage of the championship and had to play in the final phase. There Sion entirely gave up, which means they concentrated on the Cup. Neither opponent was particularly strong, but a final is a matter of matching ambitions. FC Sion prevailed 2-1. Young Boys lost the finals in two consecutive years and FC Sion won their 3rd cup.
FC Sion, founded in 1909, was never among the leading Swiss clubs, but in the historic scheme – not so bad either, for most clubs never won even a single trophy. A rare success, but success. The team was nothing to speak of – perhaps Bregy was the biggest star. Two foreigners, similar to those playing for Basel – that is, hardly heard of. A veteran French defender Jean-Claude Richard (b. 1946), and a more interesting midfielder – Marian Cernicky (b.1953), a Czechoslovak player, who debuted this season. The previous season he played for Lokomotiva (Kosice) and this is what makes his case interesting and mysterious. In general, Czechoslovakia cautiously started exporting players in 1980. At first they were veterans with well known names, who played for the national team for years. The pattern of every Eastern European country. Cernicky was slightly younger – as a rule, almost every Communist country permitted players over 28 to play abroad. He never played for national team and in Czechoslovakia was practically anonymous player, playing for small club. Possibly, he was a defector. But he played for Lokomotiva the previous season and for Sion – right the next season. Normally, defectors missed at least a year, suspended by FIFA for their ‘illegal’ leaving of the original club. What was the true story is so far impossible to uncover: Cernicky was very close – yet, under – the usual age permitting export. He moved to Switzerland so close to the accepted year of Czechoslovakia beginning the export of players – yet, before that year. He was entirely unknown player – but USSR, Bulgaria, Romania started their exports with players off the public radar. Whatever the truth, Cernicky started successfully his career in Switzerland – with a cup. The last and bigger interesting thing was the coach of FC Sion – a debutant coach, winning a trophy in his very first coaching year. As a player – a Swiss legend and well known in Europe: Daniel Jeandupeux. Barely 31 years old. Misfortune explains his early start of coaching – he did not recover from a badly broken leg in 1977 and missed his last two years with Bordeaux. The injury lead to early retirement – and the switch to coaching was immediately successful. Success was not good for FC Sion – the club was unable to keep Jeandupeux, who was invited to take over his former club FC Zurich right after winning the cup. And in Zurich he tried to return to playing – he was registered as playing coach in the next three years, but the injury was too bad and he played only 2 games, in which he scored 1 goal. A great success for FC Sion, but trivia and gossip are perhaps the most interesting part of their story.