March 7, 2018 7:32 pm

Switzerland curling clubs travel to Canada for 1st Brier experience

Swiss curling fans Manuel Noseda (left) and Mauro Frigerio (right) pose with the president of their curling club in front of four bustling sheets of ice during draw 11 at the Tim Hortons Brier in Regina, Sask.

Allison Bamford / Global News

Playing at this year’s Tim Hortons Brier is a dream come true for many of the curlers. It’s also a dream for 21 Swiss fans, who are just as honoured to be cheering in the crowd.

Two curling clubs from Switzerland — one from the northern German region and one from the southern Italian region — travelled eight hours by plane, totalling more than 7,000 kilometres before they landed at the Brandt Centre on Tuesday evening.

“It’s exciting, like a dream of a child coming true.

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“Watching the game, the atmosphere, it’s just great. We love it,” said Manuel Noseda, a curler from the southern rink.

READ MORE: Wild card game adds twist to 2018 Tim Hortons Brier 

The group is on a 12-day cross-Canada trip that started in Toronto and will end in Saskatoon. Along the way, they are stopping to play at local curling clubs, and of course, a two-day detour to the Brier is on their itinerary.

The two clubs are celebrating their 50th anniversaries. It’s tradition that, every year, the rinks play off on a frozen lake in Switzerland in what’s known as the “Grand Match.” But instead of an outdoor curling game, they opted for a Brier experience.

“If you have to organize a trip, there are two places you’d want to go as a curler: Scotland, of course, and the second one is Canada,” explained Noseda.

He added the group celebrated its 40th anniversary in Scotland.

READ MORE: Love of curling brings Ontario couple together 

Curling isn’t broadcasted across Switzerland like it is here in Canada and the sport only gains traction during the Olympics. The clubs are much smaller in membership and the Swiss play on “hockey ice,” not “curling ice.” But that hasn’t stopped fans from falling in love with the sport.

Mauro Frigerio streams all the Briers on YouTube, including last year’s championship when Brad Gushue won in St. John’s, Nfld. Now, the superfan gets the chance to watch Gushue’s rink curl in real life.

READ MORE: Alberta’s Bottcher hands defending champion Gushue his first defeat at Brier 

“It’s amazing. I’m just a few metres from these guys that I only (see) on YouTube,” Frigerio said. “It’s really nice.”

Getting to Gushue

The idea behind the trip was to celebrate the clubs’ 50th anniversaries. But for 34-year-old Frigerio, there was another motive to cross the ocean.

Frigerio idolizes Team Canada’s Brad Gushue, so much so that his voice shakes when he talks about the possibility of meeting the skip.

That possibility became reality after Wednesday morning’s draw. Frigerio and two other Swiss fans met Gushue.

Team Canada had just suffered their first loss at the Brier, but still took time to take pictures. Gushue says it’s an incredible experience to meet fans that go to great lengths just to see him.

READ MORE: Canada sets its national curling stage: meet the teams

“I love it. It’s nice when someone is excited to meet you,” Gushue told media prior to meeting Frigerio.

“To hear the stories about how much (fans) have cheered for us… those stories are a lot of fun to hear and I enjoy them.”

Frigerio didn’t have a chance to speak with the skip during the photo-op, but he hopes to get another opportunity to talk to Gushue. The Swiss clubs brought along a souvenir plaque to give to Team Canada and Frigerio already knows what he would say to his idol.

“I would say thank you because (the reason) I love this sport is all thanks to them.”

The clubs take off to Saskatoon Thursday morning. There, they plan to pick up a broom and learn a thing or two from the local curlers.

Of course, Frigerio says they’ll be keeping up with the Brier on TV and cheering on Team Canada from the road.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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