Beyond The Barracks (KV Mechelen)

After a short ride from the wondrous time had at Lyra, we found ourselves in good time for the evening kick-off at K.V.Mechelen. To our delight both the Belgian Cup and the first round of Jupiler Pro League fixtures had thrown up several options for a double and K.V. more than fitted the bill.

Tickets ordered in advance online were collected effortlessly from the super efficient kiosk. To give the hosts their full name for once, Yellow Red Koninklijke Voetbalclub Mechelen, would explain the vibrant coloured queues waiting for the gates to swing open at 7pm. Formed in 1904 a mere couple of months after city neighbours Racing Mechelen, KV have a proud history and rejoice in the low matricule number of 25. Today’s opposition, Standard de Liège, however, are older still and own matricule 16.

The clubs home ground has the dreaded sponsored name of Argosstadion after Argos Oil paid for the naming rights. Its traditional name is Achter de Kazerne, which literally translated as “behind the barracks”, the ground having once been adjacent to a large but now demolished army base. The club has played at Achter since 1911 when the then president Francis Dessain purchased the vacant land from the Chevalier Marin brewery. The club were originally called FC Malinois and the supporters are often still referred to as “Malinwa”. The ground itself is quite magnificent. The main grandstand has wooden seating and an unusual slated roof, opposite is a really traditional covered terrace, a large percentage of the 10,402 crowd will gather here. The fans that stand on this side of the ground generate a really first class atmosphere of singing, colour and noise. Behind the far goal is an unusual twin tier stand with benched seating in the top tier and terracing underneath. The other end looks formidable from the outside, tall and cavernous but in truth the twin tier of glazed corporate seating, more than half empty for this opening match of the season, is a tad underwhelming once inside. Aside from that minor quibble a stunning set of traditional floodlight pylons complete a really great ground that is draped liberally in the club’s colours of “Geel en Rood”. One does wonder whether the redevelopment of the huge covered terrace and the twin tier stand behind the goal at the end of this season will have a deleterious affect on the feel of the stadium. The club does need to progress so lets hope the plans are sympathetic and in keeping with the great history of this venue.

A brass band and anthem singing turn the volume up prior to the kick-off and expectation is high for the start of the new season. The home side toil manfully in the heat but seem to lack quality in the forward department. The visitors show their title credentials with two identical breakaway goals in the second half. In both cases a forward springs the offside trap from a counter attack and slots past the home custodian. On the quality of play alone they are worthy winners.

Belgian football has some really historic old fashioned football grounds indeed the recently opened Ghelamco Arena in Gent is the first totally new stadium in the country in 38 years. Both K.V. Mechelen and Lyra TSV were an absolute pleasure to visit and some more trips to this welcoming corner of Europe will certainly be pushed up the agenda.

Jupiler Pro League – 29/07/2013

K.V. Mechelen (0) 0

Standard de Liège (0) 2 (Majangibia 57,Batshuayi 84)

Attendance: 10,402

KV:

1. Wouter Biebauw; 4. Seth De Witte; 6. Sheldon Bateau; 10. Abdul-Yakuni Iddi; 13. Wannes Van Tricht; 14. Benjamin Mokulu; 15. Thomas Enevoldsen; 19. Maxime Biset; 21. Anthony Van Loo; 26. Antonio Ghomsi; 29. Alessandro Cordaro.

Subs:

28. Tome Pacovski; 3. Seweryn Michalski; 8. Jerry Vandam; 9. Mads Junker; 11. Mats Rits; 16. Victor Prodell (for 10, 67 mins); 18. David Destorme (for 13, 46 mins); 20. Joachim Van Damme (for 14, 78 mins).

Standard:

1. Elji Kawashima; 4. Daniel Opare; 6. Laurent Ciman; 17. Yoni Buyens; 23. Michy Batshuayi; 25. Antonio Periera Dos Santos; 37. Jelle Van Damme; 39. Imoh Ezekiel; 40. Paul Jose Mpoku Ebunge; 44. Ibrahima Cisse; 63. Geoffrey Mujangibia.

Subs:

16, Anthony Morris; 2. Alessandro Iandoli (for 40, 69 mins); 7. Raza Ghoochannejahad; 10. Igor De Camargo (for 39, 78 mins); 11. Frederic Bulot (for 63, 65 mins); 36. Dino Arslanagic; 75. Alpaslan Ozturk.

Yellow Cards:

De Witte, Ghomsi (both KV); Van Damme, Opare and Kawashima (all Standard)

Gallery

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Nightboat to Lyra (K.Lyra TSV)

A number of football related reasons meant that a car load of well travelled English groundhoppers descended on Dover ferry port from all points north and west in the middle of the night. After a decent breakfast in the well preserved border town of Veurne it was time to eat up the road miles to the town of Lier in province of Antwerpen.

Pulling up to the Lyra Stadion in Mechelnsesteenweg, welcoming the visitor is a homely ticket kiosk which sits somewhat awkwardly next to a petrol station. Once the gates had creaked open well ahead of the 4pm kick-off, we eagerly entered for some pre-match photos. All of us had done our research prior to the weekend and were aware that a super ground lay beyond the gates, but it was to far exceed our expectations. The Lyra Stadion is one of those great, historic grounds seemingly hewn rather than built and gloriously faded with a patina that can only come from antiquity, grandeur and history.

The stadium had opened in 1912, some three years after the club’s formation and replaced their original ground in Antwerpsesteenweg. The stunning main stand which runs down the entire length of one side was erected in 1912 and subsequently extended which means this edifice is in fact the oldest football stand in all of Belgium. Only a wooden stand at a hockey ground in Uccle prevents this vintage edifice from being the oldest in use sporting structure in the land. Aside from the sumptuous and cavernous grandstand the rakish terracing behind the goal catches the eye, replete with classically styled concrete crush barriers. In times gone by the club competed in the upper echelons of Belgian football and five figure crowds were not unusual at the Lyra Stadion. Today they find themselves in the more sedate surroundings of the Promotion League Group C. Indeed the club find themselves at something of a crossroads with plans to move away from this historic old ground in the offing. The side opposite the grandstand originally had shallow terracing but this has now been flattened and the land awaits the construction of a police building. The end of this new season will see Lyra TSV vacate their spiritual home and groundshare for at least two years while a replacement stadium is built elsewhere in Lier.

Of course, the Belgians are renowned for their recording of sporting history and as a result have a unique numbering system for the lineage of its football clubs. The matricule system is fantastic for historians and the honour of a “low” matricule is something to be fiercely proud of. The oldest Belgian club, Royal Antwerp, have matricule number 1 and every club formed subsequently is recorded in descending number. The original Lyra club had been established in 1891 with the football section being inaugurated in 1909, giving them a matricule of 52. However a 1972 merger with Lierse Sportkring meant the surrendering of their cherished low number and a reassignment to matricule number 7,776. Today’s guests, SK Rapid Leest, are two levels below Lyra and compete in the sixth tier. They have matricule number 3,737.

Everybody at the Lyra club are extremely welcoming and bend over backwards to accommodate their unexpected English guests. The combatants enter the field of play to a rousing blast of the club anthem “Lyralied”, an essential purchase on a tasty slab of retro 7″ vinyl from behind the bar. On the field the home side exert their two division advantage and without too much bother coast into a two goal lead. If the visitors had a little more self belief in the final third then Lyra could have had more of a contest on their hands. Instead an injury time penalty is all the visitors have to show for their toils. In front of 192 people Lyra progress to a second round tie away to Sint-Lennarts.

As the countdown begins for this stunning old ground, aside from a hearty recommendation from four experienced groundhoppers, it is probably best to let the pictures beguile you into visiting.

Belgian Cofidis Cup First Round (28/07/2013)

K.Lyra TSV (1)2 (Waumann 27, Jacobs 65) SK Rapid Leest (0)1 (Rucquoy pen 90)

Attendance: 192 (at the Lyra Stadion)

Lyra:

1. Joghem Tanghe; 2. Arno Van Hove; 4. Tom Blamnaerts; 6. Elio Balbi; 10. Given Jacobs; 11. Levi Waumann; 12. Gaeten Lambreghts; 15. Wouter Vos, 17. Glenn Jansenns; 19. Kurt Ory (c); 21. Tim Verrerck.

Subs:

33. Thomas Vos (not used); 3. Jordy Van Collie (for 15, 86 mins); 8. Olivier Trouillard (for 17, 77 mins); 9. Zigi Arras (for 21, 64 mins).

Leest:

33. Niel De Dooy; 2. Joeri Van Bossuyt; 3. Bart Van Campenhout; 4. Ken Beyens; 5. Sammy Abdellaa; 7. Pietr Verbruggen (c); 12. Zakaria Daali; 13. Glenn Rucquoy; 15. Phillipe Vanmullen; 16. Simon Verbruggen; 17. Koery Broothaers.

Subs:

8. Tom Vandenbranden (for 4, 84 mins); 9. Hakim Boussehaba (for 3, 83 mins); 11. Yonas Haesearts (16, 66 mins); 87. Glenn Linsen (not used).

Yellow Cards:

Van Bossuyt, Vanmullen and Broothaers (all Leest).

Gallery

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Football Art by Fantasista

Some Instagram highlights from the brilliant Fantasista exhibition at the Cello Factory, July 11th – 14th 2013.

Art by @FantasistaArt Instagrams by @peterrmiles

Scarves – by Savile Rogue (@SavileRogue)

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Protest Shirts – by Quiet British Accent (@QuietBritAcc)

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Rooney – by Richard Swarbrick (@RikkiLeaks)

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Cristiano Ronaldo – by Richard Swarbrick

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Bale – by Richard Swarbrick

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Messi – from an animation by Richard Swarbrick

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Muller – by Zoran Lucić (@zoranlucic)

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Pele – by Dave Merrell (@davemerrell)

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Zidane – by Dave Merrell

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Catenaccio – by Steve Welsh (@miniboro_dotcom)

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Maine Road – by Steve Welsh

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Highbury – by Steve Welsh

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Pirlo – by Stanley Chow (@stan_chow)

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Socrates – by Stanley Chow

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