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Mackems Abroad: Meet The Swiss Branch

Our newest feature, Mackems Abroad, sees Roker Report speak to the brilliant Sunderland supporters organisations around the world. Last time we spoke to the Melbourne Mackems - this week we're getting into it with the founder of the SAFC Swiss Branch John Osborne, a fan based in Geneva.

Hi John - How did you come to form the Swiss branch?

It was formed about six years ago, after me and a few work colleagues from CERN went to watch a match in a Geneva pub. CERN is a nuclear research laboratory in Geneva - famous for the Hadron Collider - and a number of our members work there.

It was just a way for some homesick Mackems to meet up and support the lads!

I know you're originally from Low Fell - how did come to leave the North East and end up in Switzerland?

I left to study civil engineering at Liverpool university in 1985, and worked on a few tunnel jobs in the United Kingdom such as Canary Wharf Station on the Jubilee line. I then applied for a job at CERN in 1998 to build some new shafts, caverns and tunnels for the Large Hadron Collider.

How many members does the Swiss branch have, and how often do you all meet to watch Sunderland games together?

We have around fifteen members now - we meet about three or four times a season to watch matches in various pubs in Geneva, and go to a couple of live games. It's great with Easyjet flights direct to Newcastle.


What's your favourite Sunderland game that you've been to?

Away to Wigan in 1988! I can't remember the score, but I remember a Sunderland fan impersonating Eddie the Eagle, sliding down the mud bank in the away end! Radio 5Live were doing live commentary on the mud sliding, but not the match!

The promotion from the third division was a great season, totally filling most of the away grounds.

How did the Swiss branch come to be officially recognised by the club?

I emailed them directly and the Liason officer, Chris Waters, has been very reactive. He gave the club a signed football before the Newcastle win last October. The fact it had a post-it note saying 'Swedish' branch instead of Swiss branch made it even more welcome.

You say there are around fifteen members of the branch - where do those people come from, are they all exiles or are some of the members Swiss-based?

Our members are mostly expats from England. Three of us work at CERN, one in Geneva at Japan Tabbaco, one from Bern, and a few other family members. Even my son is Sunderland daft, and he has never lived in the UK.

How has that been for him, supporting Sunderland over there? What do his mates think of it?

He goes to International School in Geneva - there is another Sunderland expat family with kids there. His maths teacher is a Magpie, so you can imagine he hasn't enjoyed teaching him. You can imagine the banter in the corridor on Monday mornings after the last six derbies!

What sort of things can supporters in Switzerland do in order to get involved with your branch? Where can they get involved, meet up and such like?

Simply join our group on Facebook, and events are posted there - the next event is for the derby game in March, and a couple of us are going to the West Brom match in April.

Cern has a cricket club and we are always looking for new members, and if any recently graduated civil engineers are looking for a job, they can contact me. That would be great!

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