The Perennial Struggle (East Stirlingshire)

The East Stirlingshire Football Club have an official formation date of 1881 although it roots go back a year earlier to a club called Britannia in the nearby town of Bainsford. The new club took over Randyford Park in Grangemouth Road from neighbours Falkirk who had decamped to a ground called Blinkbonny.

However, Randyford proved problematic and within months East Stirlingshire moved to Merchiston Park. The club remained at this ground until it was purchased to extend the adjacent Burnbank Iron Foundry. Shire then opened their new town centre ground, Firs Park, in August 1921. Although modest in dimensions the ground managed to accommodate 11,500 spectators for a 1968 Scottish Cup tie against Hibernian.

Life at Firs Park was never dull, in 1964 the incumbent board relocated the club to New Kilbowie Park and an ill-fated merger with Clydebank. After twelve months of litigation the Shire returned to Falkirk. During their absence the cover from the standing enclosure and the floodlights had gone to Kilbowie and local vandals had also held sway in the unoccupied ground. New lights and a replacement cover were erected before football returned to Firs Park. The small barrelled roof main stand became something of an icon of Scottish stadium architecture. Since the 1964 debacle the club has periodically considered further relocation, with Grangemouth Athletics Stadium being considered on more than one occasion.

The club played its last game at Firs Park in 2008 when the momentous decision was taken that the old ground would be prohibitively expensive to upgrade to the new ground grading criteria imposed by the Scottish League. The club signed an initial five year deal to play at Stenhousemuir’s ancient Ochilview Park while the club actively looked for a new site in the Falkirk area. In May 2014 East Stirlingshire signed a deal with LK Galaxy Sports to develop a new ground with the preferred site being the former BP Club ground in Grange Road, Grangemouth. Strangely this would mean both of Falkirk’s senior teams will have moved out of their own town to the same town.

Ochilview is one of Scotland’s oldest grounds having opened in 1890. It has been substantially modernised since 1994 when Stenhousemuir failed in their attempts to sell the ageing ground to a supermarket chain. A new main stand replaced the south stand terrace in 1995 and four years later the old “Dolls House” stand was refused a safety licence and was subsequently demolished. This side is now used for car parking and community 3G pitches and has left the stadium with a modest capacity of 3,750 and a distinctly open feel to it. The Tryst Road terrace was covered in 2004 with volunteer labour from supporters. The club has also installed a FIFA approved artificial playing surface in recent years.

Many casual fans follow East Stirlingshire seemingly annual battle to avoid the wooden spoon in Scotland’s fourth tier. The Shire have finish tenth and last of the Scottish League’s lowest tier for seven out of of the last twelve seasons, although last season they finished a heady eighth with Elgin City and Queen’s Park finishing below them. The club won the Scottish League Division C (the old fourth tier) in 1947/48. They have not won anything since.

This season has once again been a struggle for the Shire the league table shows them a point above bottom placed Elgin so today’s Scottish Cup game against Championship side Dunfermline Athletic must have been eyed with no little trepidation.

To the Shire’s credit they keep their guests from the Championship quiet for more that half and hour with some resolute defending. Dunfermline look the better side with Faissal El Bakhtaoui looking the pick of the visitors eleven. It’s no surprise that the young French/Moroccan playmaker opens the scoring with a deft finish just before half time. He doubles the visitors total just after the hour with another impressive strike.

The men from East End Park effectively seal the victory when Shaun Byrne picked up a loose ball in his own half and outpaced the home defence to score with some aplomb. East Stirlingshire’s biggest goal threat comes from the burly Ivorian striker Guy Tahin who bizarrely is only currently permitted to play in cup ties and friendlies. However, Tahin is well shackled today by Gregor Buchanan. Shire continue to press forward and suddenly reduce the arrears with a powerful strike from distance by David Greenhill, his shot finding the net via the inside of the post.

Visibly irked by conceding a goal Dunfermline take charge again and the pressure pays off when Connor Greene makes an injudicious challenge in the area and Ross Millen nets the spot kick with a cheeky “Panenka” style chip down the middle of the goal.

Although well beaten today you have to admire the indefatigable spirit of East Stirlingshire. Homeless and regular wooden spoonists they dig in week after week and you have to salute them for that.

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Sunday November 2nd 2014 – Scottish Cup Third Round

East Stirlingshire (0) 1 (Greenhill 79)
Dunfermline Athletic (1) 4 (El Bakhtaoui 37,62, Byrne 76, Millen pen 84)

Attendance: 991 (at Ochilview, Stenhousemuir F.C.)


1. Richie Barnard (c), 2. Connor Greene, 3. Lloyd Kinnaird, 4. Michael Bolochoweckyj, 5. Chris Townsley, 6. Graeme MacGregor, 7. Andy Kay, 8. Neil McCabe, 9. Guy Tahin, 10. David McKenna, 11. David Greenhill.

Subs: 12. Billy Vidler, 14. Steven Brisbane (for 6,62 mins), 15. Martyn Shields, 16. Ross Gilmour, 17. Sean Quinn, 18. Paul Brennan (for 9,71 mins), 19. Alan Deans.


1. Ryan Scully, 2. Ross Millen, 3. Alex Whittle, 4. Stuart Urquhart, 5. Gregor Buchanan, 6. Andy Geggan (c), 7. Faissal El Bakhtaoui, 8. Lewis Spence, 9. Michael Moffat, 10. Ross Forbes, 11. Shaun Byrne.

Subs: 12. Ryan Thomson (for 10,77 mins), 14. Andy Stirling, 15. Allan Smith, 16. Chiogozie Ugwu (for 9,72 mins), 17. Ryan Williamson, 18. James Thomas for 7,72 mins), 20. Ryan Goodfellow.

Yellow Cards: Bolochoweckyj , MacGregor, Townsley, Greene (all Shire)


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Red Light (Arbroath)

The remote Angus coastal burgh of Arbroath is famous for two reasons, the “smokie” a kiln smoked salted haddock and for the fact that the town’s football team hold the record for the biggest victory in senior football.

In September 1885 Arbroath defeated the hapless Bon Accord by an incredible score of 36-0. Arbroath forward Jocky Petrie helped himself to thirteen of the goals, itself an individual scoring record. Amazingly on the very same day Dundee Harp missed their chance of lasting fame by only racking up 35 unanswered goals against Aberdeen Rovers.

The club has the nickname of “the Red Lichties” which was derived from the red lights that were illuminated on the harbour front to safely guide the fishing boats back home.

Arbroath were formed in 1878 and initially played on a basic pitch between the sea and the railway line. It was known as the Hospital Field. In 1880 the club moved to a new site which was called Old Gayfield. It was tightly hemmed in and on one side the external wall was yards from the touchline meaning spectators could not watch from that side. The first game at the ground was against Rob Roy. However, the new ground irked mighty Rangers who complained that “the back green” they had just lost on was too small for purpose. The Scottish FA acquiesced to their demands for a replay which the Glaswegians won 8-1. Old Gayfield was subsequently enlarged with the acquisition of seashore owned by the local railway company.

The club played their last match at Old Gayfield in March 1925 against King’s Park before moving the ground around sixty yards south west. The old seaside stand was demolished and a new stand erected on the Dundee Road side of the new orientation of the ground now called Greater Gayfield. The ground was ready for the new season and 7,000 people packed in to see the Earl of Strathmore declare the venue open before a game against East Fife.

In 1949 the record attendance of 13,510 was set at Gayfield when another visit from Rangers passed without complaint. The floodlights at Gayfield have a chequered history to say the least. The first temporary set were erected in 1955 and in only their second game against Dundee United an Arbroath player caused much merriment by smashing one of the lights with a wayward boot of the ball. These were replaced with lights bought from Aberdeen in 1970 although sixteen years later they were sold on again to Eastwood Town.

Gayfield survived a serious fire to the main stand in September 1958, the alarm being raised by Partick Thistle players lodging in the hotel opposite the ground. The old stand suffered significant damage and was replaced by the present brick and concrete structure. Two of the three covers were erected in 1979 and the fabled “seaside” stand was covered a year later. It truly must be the closest football stand to the sea in the land, both Gay Meadow and Craven Cottage being merely riverside rather than adjacent to the howling, elemental and endless North Sea. The word “bracing” somehow just doesn’t cut muster.

Today’s game is played in a strong wind and fair light and Gayfield rocks to an early penalty kick which is comfortably dispatched by Paul McManus. The hosts failed to build on it though and only lead their Highland League visitors by a one goal margin at the turn around.

Arbroath double their lead when left back Scott McBride powers in an impressive header from a corner. Almost immediately after the restart there is concern for the home goalkeeper who was subject to a heavy but fair challenge. He is down for some five minutes receiving treatment and has to be replaced. As the sun sets over Gayfield it is the visitors of Nairn that push forward, Sean Webb reduces the arrears two minutes from time. There is of course lengthy stoppage time and Nairn pile on the pressure seeking to take the tie back to Station Park for a replay. They can count themselves unlucky that the equaliser didn’t materialise and the Red Lichties held on for the victory.

Gayfield is just glorious, there is no other word for it. Sweeping terraces and hefty covers built, no hewn, to withstand this unforgiving coast and its unrelenting wind, sea, salt and weather. This is visceral, primordial football not only do you have to outwit your opponent but you also have to do battle with the unpredictable elements. It’s not too glib to say this is an iconic lower league ground, ridiculously photogenic, all big skies and lucent light. I excitedly snapped photograph after photograph, until the red light indicated battery power down. This ground has a mythical feel to it, truly up there with the best grounds in the kingdom.

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Saturday November 1st 2014 – Scottish Cup Third Round

Arbroath 2 (McManus pen 22, McBride 67)
Nairn County 1 (Webb 88)

Attendance: 682 (at Gayfield Park)


1. David Crawford, 2. Ricky Little, 3. Scott McBride, 4. Kevin Nicoll, 5. Aldin El-Zubaidi, 6. Mark Whatley, 7. Bobby Linn, 8. Keiran Stewart, 9. Paul McManus (c), 10. Simon Murray, 11. Jordan Lowdon.

Subs: 12. Kevin Buchan (for 9,78 mins), 14. Michael Travis, 15. Johnny Lindsay, 16. Michael Wallace, 17. Connor Birse, 18. Craig Johnstone (for 11, 63 mins), 21. Scott Morrison (for 1,71 mins).


20. Callum Antell, 2. Sean Webb 3. Glenn Main, 4. Michael Morrison (c), 5. Martin MacDonald, 6. Wayne MacKintosh, 7. Bradley Halsman, 8. Alan Pollock, 9. Robert Duncanson, 10. Conor Gethins, 11. Kyle Wilkie.

Subs: 1. Michael MacCallum, 12. Paul Macleod, 14. Ross Naismith (for 11,82 mins), 15. Sam Urquhart (for 9,73 mins), 16. Adam Naismith, 17. Chris Moir, 18. Matthew Murphy.

Yellow Card: Morrison (Nairn)


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Lichties prog


The Barley Man (St.Johnstone)

St. Johnstone were officially formed in 1884 although their first recorded match was not until February 1885. A Perth cricketer called John Colborn decided to form a new football club after some fellow cricketers kicked a ball around South Inch, the large public park situated on the banks of the River Tay.

Although Perth already had its own football teams including Erin Rovers, Fair City Athletic and the Perth Railway team called Caledonian. However it was Colborn’s new team that gained popularity ostensibly a by clever choice of name. Perth was known as “St. John’s Toun” as the biggest church in the area was dedicated to John the Baptist.

The club initially played at the Recreation Ground adjacent to South Inch and opposite the town’s prison . The site suffered greatly from periodic flooding when the swell of the Tay in flood would prove ruinous. So in 1924 the club upped sticks and moved across town to a new ground called Muirton Park on the northern outskirts of Perth. Judicious selection had tram links already in place and the field’s location in Dunkeld Road meant getting to the new ground would be easy.

The ground was set out with one big main stand and three sides of uncovered terracing. The entire project cost £13,194 with nearly £10,000 of the expenditure being spent on the construction of the grandstand. Although the board were confident the public would support the move to better facilities they could scarcely have anticipated the 11,000 crowd that assembled for the first game against Queen’s Park on Christmas Day 1924.

The ground must have been bursting at the seams when in February 1951 a colossal gate of 29,972 gathered for a Scottish Cup tie against near neighbours Dundee. It was to be the all time record crowd for Muirton Park.

Apart from the addition of floodlights in 1964, the ground had scarcely changed when the Bradford fire disaster in 1985 bought about the publication of the Safety of Sports Ground Act. Lack of investment at the ground saw the North Stand and part of the Centre Stand immediately closed and a seated capacity restriction of 500 imposed. The club found themselves forcibly relegated due to the state of the ground. The future of the Saints looked bleak indeed when out of the blue the Asda supermarket chain offered to buy the site and the adjacent ice rink for a new supermarket, funding a replacement stadium as part of the deal. The club played its last game at Muirton Park against Ayr United in April 1989 before moving to the brand new McDairmid Park.

At a modest budget of £4.9 million architect Percy Johnson-Marshall provided the club with everything they needed in a new ground. A capacity of 10,600 and ultra modern facilities saw the club in prime condition to climb back up the divisions.

The site of the new stadium was on a field used for growing barley and was owned by Bruce McDairmid. The kindly landowner donated the land free of charge to “the people of Perth”. The club insisted on giving him a 20% stake-holding and naming the new stadium after him in acknowledgement of his generous act of philanthropy.

Sadly today there is no vestige of Muirton Park left, though interestingly as part of the planning agreement Asda originally had to agree to paint the store royal blue as a nod to its historic past. Disappointingly the store nowadays sports the standard green livery.

Tonight’s game sees a charge of £23 to get in which doubtless contributed, along with live television coverage, to a modest turned out on Halloween night. Rain arrived just before kick off and poured down unrelentingly for the duration of the match. The visitors from Motherwell began in the ascendancy and when Michael O’Halloran casually lost possession in his own half, within seconds Lionel Ainsworth was dispatching the ball past Alan Mannus in the home goal. The errant striker would make amends however with two classy goals, the second nine minutes from time sealing a welcome victory for the Perthshire men.

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Friday October 31st 2014 – SPFL Premiership

St.Johnstone (1) 2 (O’Halloran 40,81)
Motherwell (1) 1 (Ainsworth 14)

Attendance: 2,531 (164 away) at McDairmid Park


1. Alan Mannus, 2. David Mackay (c), 5. Frazer Wright, 6. Steven Anderson, 7. Chris Millar, 8. Gary McDonald, 14. Brian Graham, 17. James McFadden, 22. Lee Croft, 24. Brian Easton, 29. Michael O’Halloran.

Subs: 15. Steve Banks, 11. Adam Morgan, 16. Liam Caddis (for 17,85 mins), 19. Gary Miller (for 22,89 mins), 20. Scott Brown, 38. Ally Gilchrist, 31. Dylan Easton.


12. Dan Twardzik, 3. Steven Hammell, 5. Simon Ramsden, 6. Stephen McManus, 7. Lionel Ainsworth, 9. John Sutton, 11. Iain Vigurs, 14. Keith Lasley (c), 17. Zaine Francis-Angol, 20. Fraser Kerr, 24. Henrik Ojamaa.

Subs: 13. Gunnar Neilson, 2. Craig Reid, 4. Stuart Carswell, 15. Mark O’Brien (for 3,85 mins), 16. Robert McHugh, 18. Josh Law (for 11,88 mins), 19. Lee Erwin (for 17,82 mins).

Yellow Cards: Ojamaa, Vigurs (both Motherwell)


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Saints prog

Raising The Standaard (Standaard Wetteren)

Royal Standaard Wetteren were formed in 1948 as Standaard Molenhoek and as an amateur side originally registered with the KBVB (Katholieke Vlaamsch Sportverbond Oost-Vlaanderen) which was at the time a big rival federation to the Royal Belgian Football Association. In 1951 the club changed its name to Standaard Wetteren and joined the URBSFA (l’Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association). The newly renamed club were given the matricule number of 5479 and were placed in the third tier provincial league and fair very well during the rest of the decade but without gaining promotion.

In 1963 a local businessman, Marcel De Kerpel, took over the club and made plans for the club to be a regular in the new regionalised third tier rather than be restricted to provincial football. In 1982 the club won the provincial league but were not granted promotion as their Kuipke ground was found to be too small for national standards. De Kerpel vowed to address this immediately and a patch of land was secured at Dasseveld. The president appointed himself chief architect and foreman of the project and in no time at all the club had a smart new home ready for national football. The club finally won the provincial “promotion” league again in 1988/89 and took their place in the third tier, being placed in Group A of the two section Division Three. They remained in the third tier until 2000/01 with their best performance being a fifth place finish in 1997/98. The 1999/2000 season should have been a warning to the club as they just survived relegation in the end of season play-offs but the following season they were not so fortunate finishing rock bottom of the sixteen clubs.

The club rebuilt under a young coach Wim de Corte and in 2002/03 they won the Promotion League and returned to Division 3 Group A. Sadly De Kerpel did not live to see the club’s return to the third tier. The club continue to improve under De Corte and nearly secured promotion in 2005/06 losing a final round game against Racing Waregem. Wetteren persisted and finally achieved promotion to the second tier by winning the championship in 2008/09. De Corte guided the yellow and greens to two mid table finishes before accepting the post of assistant manager at Beerschot. He currently holds a similar post at Pro League Wassland-Beveren.

Under a new coach, Kris Van der Haegen, the club finished bottom of Division Two and were relegated. Worse still befell the club last season when they finished bottom of Division 3 Group A and plummeted back to the fourth tier.

The Marcel De Kerpelstadion, named after their visionary former president, is a fine ground, with a capacity of 6,000 of which 420 people can find a seat. It has ample covered accommodation and it feels like a real privilege to see a game here. Today’s match sees the hosts top of the Promotion League Group A table after seven rounds with visitors, Sporting West Harelbeke, in third place.

The game itself does not live up to its surroundings being a tight contest between two evenly matched sides. The play gets bogged down in midfield and stray passes proliferate. The match looks destined to head to a goalless draw when the hosts piled on the pressure in the closing moments. Finally Harelbeke’s rearguard crumbled and a towering header from substitute Jonas Droessaert stole the victory right at the death.


Sunday October 12th 2014 – Belgium Promotion League Group A

Standaard Wetteren (0) 1 (Droessaert 90)

Sporting West Harelbeke (0) 0

Attendance: 273 (at the Marcel De Kerpelstadion)


18. Nathan Baele; 4. Rob Van Der Wilt; 5. Kjeld Fort; 8. Ilias Sbaa; 10. Thibeau De Vos; 12. Stijn Minne (c); 15. Michael Delaruelle; 17. Robbe Van Ruyskesvelde; 20. Kim Van Den Bergh; 23. Kevin Elaut; 77. Zaven Yagan.

Subs: 1. Preben Van Buynder; 9. Jonas Droessaert (for 12, 64 mins); 11. Amrani Nidikumana (for 23, 71 mins); 22. Gillis Pringels (for 10, 76 mins).


35. Pieter Merlier; 4. Rob Claeys (c); 6. Jens Noppe; 7. Kerim Vanstechelman; 8. Jenci Dejonghe; 10. Giovanni Delannoy; 15. Johnathan Meerschman; 17. Jeroen Doornaert; 18. Valentin Romont; 20. Niels De Loof; 29. Timothy Van De Wouwer.

Subs: 1. Thierry Coppens; 2. Vinny Mayele Mansengina (for 20, 65 mins); 9. Christophe Pype (for 18, 46 mins); 11. Gianny Vanhaecke (for 7, 83 mins).

Yellow Cards: Delaruelle, Droessaert (Wetteren); Noppe (Harelbeke).


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Wett ticket




Titus Luxembourgus (FC Titus Lamadelaine)

FC Titus Lamadelaine are rapidly rising up the divisions of Luxembourg football having been promoted three times in the last four seasons. The blue and yellows now find themselves in the Promotion D’Honneur which is the second tier of the national system. However, with this rapid elevation has seen problems with their home ground, the Terrain Rue du Vieux Moulin in Lamadelaine, which is in the canton of Esch-sur-Alzette. Drainage problems need repairing and the ground itself is also very small and in order to compete in the second tier the club have arranged a groundshare at near neighbours FC Rodange 91.

The groundshare with second tier FC Rodange 91 has been a great success. The Stade Joseph Philippart has a licensed capacity of 3,400 and is interestingly situated next to the local prison. It boasts a large stand and has small sections of terracing as well. Changing rooms are provided in the adjacent sports hall.

Titus Lamadelaine were formed in 1948 and had early success gaining three successive promotions between 1949/50 and 1951/52. They then spent five seasons in the second tier before a lengthy hiatus in the lower reaches of Luxembourg football. An unexpected run in the Coupe de Luxembourg in 2008/09 was a pre-cursor the clubs recent success. They reached the last sixteen of the cup before losing 3-0 to Avenir Beggen, who were a top flight club at the time.

In season 2010/11 Titus finish second to FC Noertznage HF in the fifth tier Bezirksliga Drëtt Divisioun (Group 2) and moved up to the fourth tier (Zweet Divisioun). Continuing to climb a third place finish meant a play-off for promotion to the third tier. The club placed in the third bottom place of the First Division were Jeunesse Schieren and a tight encounter saw Titus prevail by two goals to one.

The club found itself in the third tier (Éischt Divisioun) for the first time since 1968 and acquitted themselves extremely well finishing in fourth place. Last season they finished runners up on goal difference to Mondercange. With only the champions eligible for automatic promotion from the two third tier divisions Titus had to face Jeunesse Junglinster in a promotion play-off. Titus won 3-1 in a game staged at the Complex Sportif Jean Wirtz in Strassen. To cap a memorable season Titus defeated US Esch 3-2 in the final of the FLF Cup.

The club has started reasonably well in the Promotion D’Honneur, two wins against Sandweiler and Mamer were followed by defeats against Racing Union Lëtzebuerg and then Swift Hesperange. So tonight’s game against a club with a lengthy top flight pedigree, CS Pétange, is vital if the hosts are to move up from their current position of tenth in a division of twelve. It’s a very well contested game and pleasingly high on skill but the sides are very equal in playing strength. The hosts, with a plethora of players of Portuguese extraction, create a number of chances but fail to find the net. The game is settled by a bad goalkeeping error just before halftime. Titus’ Hugo Magalhães rushed out of his area but only cleared the ball to an opponent. An accurate cross came in and, with the keeper stranded, Almir Smigalović had the easiest task to nod into an unprotected net.


Saturday October 11th 2014 – Luxembourg Promotion D’Honneur

FC Titus Lamadelaine (0) 0

CS Pétange (1) 1 (Smigalović 45)

Attendance: 239 (at Stade Joseph Philippart)


Hugo Magalhães ©; 40. Mohamed Jatta; 16. Ismael Danso; 5. Maikel Veloso; 3. Gerard Geisbursch; 18. Jeffry Gomes; 86. Amar Sabandzović; 17. Micael Monteiro de Fonseca; 10. Antonio Marques; 19. Mickael Leoni; 7. Bruno Batista.

Subs: 30. Djalo Bacari (for 10, 67 mins); 43. Daniel Viera; 8. Leonardo Machado (for 40, 60 mins); 12. Kevin Mardiconi; 22. Eliot Gashi (for 86, 64 mins).


Jonathan De Merco; 15. Mathias Dimizas; 18. Wilson Marcelo Martins; 5. Bertrand Ketchanke; 6. Jerome Faber; 25. Steve Oliveira Pereira; 11. Alen Dautbasić; 20. Renato Mota Carvalho; 26. Erdin Skenderović; 13. Almir Smigalović; 8. Naïm Boulahfari ©.

Subs: 12. Raphael Gindt; 14. Ernest Basić; 10. Koceila Ben Chabane (for 25, 76 mins); 9. Fabrice Berretta (for 15, 75 mins); 7. Admir Sabotić (for 11, 74 mins).

Yellow Cards: Jatta, Veloso, Marques, Batista (all Titus); Martins, Dautbasić (Pétange).


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Trainspotting (FC Sobemai)

As football venues go the Stadion Edelhert De Lille in the Belgian town Maldegem is extraordinary. It’s actually more than extraordinary, it’s unique. There is nothing else like it. The resident club FC Sobemai contest around 30 games a season in a nameless ad-hoc East and West Flanders competition that is strictly amateur and is not even affiliated to the Royal Belgian Football Federation. This is football in its rawest form and affectionately known as ‘caféploeg voetball’. What makes this venue so beguiling, so utterly unique, is that the pitch is surrounded by old train carriages, engines and other engineering equipment. Metallic rusting giants originally collected by Edelhart De Lille for a proposed theme park that never got off the ground. In 1973 the club’s old pitch at Akkersterrein was no longer available De Lille suggested his train graveyard would make a more than suitable alternative venue.

FC Sobemai were formed in May 1966 and were the works team of a crane building firm called NV Sobemai in Bogaardenstraat. The new club contested their first game against KAJ Oostwinkel and continued playing friendlies against other factory and works teams in the area. In the late 1977 the team played in an organised league for the first time called the Meetjeslands Voetbal League, but soon returned to their preferred ad-hoc style of matches. Despite Edelhert De Lille inventing a highly successful articulated mechanism for lifting weights the firm would eventually go bankrupt but such was his love of football the kindly owner allowed the club to continue on the site indefinitely for a peppercorn rent. Even after De Lille’s death in 2008 the family have no intention for changing the arrangements for the club.

In April 2003 the club suffered a blow when their old wooden canteen and dressing rooms were destroyed in a fire started by a short circuit in an electrical cupboard. Sadly the club also saw all their historic memorabilia lost in the blaze. The club had to play on a local park pitch before returning to their home ground five months later.

The club has overcome many setbacks and have soldiered on in their quirky ad-hoc competition where their rivals include teams like The Beggars, Walrus and Borussia Vake. Today they take on Westeinde and Boogaarde Kermis which translates rather wonderfully as West End and Boogarde Fairground. Sobemai’s amiable Club President and former player Eric Sierens welcomes us to the club and soon all is set for kick off. The game is just thirty minutes each way and the pitch is noticeably narrow. There is no referee and officiating is conducted by a mutually agreed club official. He does an excellent job although with only one offside blown for in the whole game the rule seems to have been sidelined for this game. The standard of the match is surprisingly good and contested in a very good spirit.

At halftime the players of Kermis stay on the sidelines drinking Jupiler beer and smoking while Sobemai return to the changing rooms. Upon their return both sides line up for a joint team photo which seemed to epitomise the friendly nature of the encounter. From the Kermis team it is Gert-Jan Savat that catches the eye with two good finishes early in the second half. For the home side Jordy Decadt looked a useful player and goalkeeper Pascal Pollet pulled off some excellent saves which made Kermis’ injury time goal a shame as it went through the custodian’s legs on a wet pitch. Just prior to the visitor’s third goal their defender Dieter Dabaut managed to put the ball into his own net to momentarily reduce Sobemai’s arrears.

This is a wonderful place, so unconventional and so utterly bizarre, who wouldn’t want to watch a game here?

Update (February 2015)

Subsequently to writing this piece, news arrived from Belgium that the bizarre collection of locomotives and wagons at the ground of FC Sobemai were on the move. The daughter of Edelhart De Lille and her brothers had decided after forty years of standing around the football field it was time to re-house the ancient relics. Already gone from the site are two carriages and a 37 tonne locomotive. They have been transported to the Verbeke Foundation in Stekene and both the carriages have a significant place in history. Both carriages were made in Germany and had been commissioned by Hermann Göring and had transported General Dwight D. Eisenhower on his European visits. Two carriages remain at the ground and they too have a fascinating story to tell. The two carriages were seized by Hitler following the annexation of Lithuania and were bought to Germany and completely renovated. After the War it is known that Queen Elizabeth used the carriages on state visits and they were described as being luxuriously equipped. The serial numbers of the two remaining carriages confirmed their provenance and Kilian De Lille hopes they can be returned to Lithuania and housed at their national train museum. De Lille and her brothers have set up a website to clear all the other items of train equipment, vintage cars, old fire trucks and cranes collected by their late and truly eccentric father. After 40 years of looking exactly the same the landscape at FC Sobemai’s quirky ground is changing rapidly, get there soon to experience this unique place!


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Sunday October 12th 2014

FC Sobemai (0) 1 (Dabout og 60)

West Eind & Boogarde Kermis (0) 3 (G-J Savat 39,44, Van Waeyenberghe 60)

Attendance: 42 (at Stadion Edelhart De Lille)


1. Pascal Pollet; 11. Dries Nieuwlaat; 12. Bjorn Veimeize; 10. Bart Lasoen; 6. Jordy Decadt; 7. Stijn Debbaet; 18. Stefaan Willems (c); 14. Jelle Bozgonjon; 5. Dries De Poprtere; 3. Bjorn Huwel; 9. Simon De Baets.

Subs (rolling): 17. Ivan Gobeyn; 4. Jelle Bosman


1. Thomas Savat; 7. Tom Henneman; 15. Gunther Geimaert; 4. Steven Cauwels; 17. Bjorn Van Waeyenberghe; 11. Gael De Sloovere; 14. Gert-Jan Savat; 16. Stefan Lamate; 9. Yarl Hautekeete; 2. Marten De Jaeger; 6. Thomas Verstringe.

Sub (rolling): 5. Dieter Dabaut


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One Step Beyond (FC Hennef 05)

FC Hennef 05 were formed in July 2005 when TuRa Hennef and FC Geistingen decided to pool resources and merge into one club. The roots of the merger start in 1916 when Viktoria Geistingen were formed at a meeting in a restaurant called the Gaststätte Waldfrieden. In the neighbouring town of Hennef a football wing of 1895 Hennef Turnverein was established and in 1938 merged with a field sports club called TuRa Hennef. After a brief merger between Hennef and Geistingen as SSV Viktoria Hennef-Geistingen, the clubs re-emerged after World War II continuing as TuRu Hennef.

The 1950’s proved to be a zenith in the achievements of TuRu Hennef rising to the then third tier Mittel Rhein Liga. In 1968 a new club, FC Geistingen were formed, but never reached the levels of their neighbours in Hennef.

The 2005 merger proved mutually beneficial with the club going on to enjoy unprecedented success. In 2011/12 they won the Mittel Rhein Liga and also took the Mittel Rhein Pokal when they defeated FC Erftstadt 3-0 in the final in Bonn. As regional cup winners Hennef entered the DFB Pokal for the first time in their history and were drawn against Bundesliga 2 opponents, the mighty TSV 1860 München. The game was staged at Sportpark Nord in Bonn and the guests unsurprisingly won by six goals to nil.

The club then won the Mittel Rhein Liga in both 2012/13 and 2013/14 for a hat-trick of championships. The club then decided they were on a sound enough financial footing to seek promotion to the fourth tier Regionalliga West.

The club play at the 2,000 capacity Stadion im Sportzentrum Hennef which lies in Fritz-Jacobi-Straße and has seen a considerable sprucing up since their elevation to the fourth tier. €400,000 were spent on a new stand for away supporters and big improvements have also been made to the dressing room facilities. It is now a very smart arena and today welcomes SV Rödinghausen who are themselves finding their feet in the fourth tier following an incredible five straight promotions.

The transition to a higher level has been tough for Hennef and they go into the match rock bottom of the table with only one point to date. This is a game left over from round nine which was a midweek round, Hennef unable to stage evening games due to the lack of floodlights at present. The game is slow paced and very few chances are created, those that came were squandered with alarming profligacy. Unsurprisingly the match finishes goalless so it is nice that the very friendly hosts have finally got the points column of the league table clicking over again. A lovely club with a great spirit but it looks almost certain that Regionalliga may prove one step beyond for them this season.


Saturday October 11th 2014 – Regionalliga West

FC Hennef 05 (0) 0

SV Rödinghausen (0) 0

Attendance: 418


21. Rene Monjeamb; 2. Lucas Inger; 3. Andy Habl; 6. Kami Niewiadomski (c); 11. Denis Wegner; 12. Rachid Bouallal; 16. Marius Ehrenstein; 17. Nikolas Klosterhalfen; 18. Stefan Ullmann; 19. Christoph Binot; 25. Daniel Jamann.

Subs: 1. Alexander Heil; 4. Marcos Rieck; 7. Dennis Eck (for 12, 77 mins); 10. Florian Schöller (for 17, 46 mins); 13. Tobias Günther; 22. Sebastian Hecht; 23. Andreas Moog.


1. Jan Schönwälder; 2. Andreas Saur; 3. Felix Frank; 5. Ihsan Kalkan; 6. David Müller; 7. Florian David Rüter; 9. Christian Knappmann; 10. Nico Schneck; 21. Sören Siek (c); 24. Lars Schröder; 28. Kai-Bastian Evers.

Subs: 26. Thorben Krol; 4. Nick Grieswelle; 14. Malte Beermann; 17. Aytürk Geçim; 23. Yannik Jaeschke; 27. Lennart Madroch (for 9, 89 mins); 29. Marcel Andrijanić (for 6, 67 mins).

Yellow Cards: Niewiadomski, Binot and Jamann (all Hennef); Andrijanić (Rödinghausen).


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Hennef prog

Hennef ticket

Spirit of Independence (1.FC Saarbrücken)

1.FC Saarbrücken have a truly fascinating history in particular relating to the Second World War and the annexing of Saarland from the rest of Germany. The club were founded on the 18th April 1903 as the football wing of Turnverein 1876 Malstatt. The club splintered away from the parent club in 1907, and rebranded two years later as FV Malstatt-Burbach.

The club played in various Bezirkligas and Kreisligas up until 1935 when the Third Reich reorganised German football into sixteen regionalised Gauligas. The club were initially placed in the Gauliga Südwest and then moved across to the Gauliga Westmark. They won this league in 1940 and 1943 and it was in the latter year they made it to the final of the play-off system but lost 3-0 to Dresdener SC. This effectively meant they were national runners up for the German championship.

As the war intensified the club could only continue fielding a side by temporarily merging with SC Altenkessel. The conclusion of the war saw Saarland, still under French occupancy, annexed from the rest of Germany. The club were allowed to reform, under their present name, and spent three seasons in the Oberliga Südwest-Nord. Under French occupancy there were attempts to get Saarland recognised as an autonomous state and, indeed, Saarland entered the qualification for the 1952 Olympics and the 1954 World Cup as their own entity. 1. FC Saarbrücken were ejected from German football in 1948 and briefly played in a hastily arranged competition called the Ehrenliga but rather than play in what was deemed as a “puppet” league, the club decided to join the French Football League having registered their name as FC Sarrebruck. The club were placed in the second tier and promptly won the championship, six points clear of Girondins de Bordeaux. The French Football Association denied them promotion and the belief was they did not want to risk a Germanic side potentially being crowned French champions. The club left the French league and played friendlies and tournaments for a few season before being readmitted to the German federation in 1952. In February 1951 one of these friendlies saw Saarbrücken take on the mighty Real Madrid who were only a few years away from five straight European Cup wins. The hosts won 4-0 with the Madridstas blaming the cold weather for the humbling defeat. The state of Saarland itself carried on producing its own postage stamps and coinage, the Saar franc, until July 1959 when the “Kleine Wiedervereinignung” (the small reunification) saw the demise of the Saarland Protectorate and full reintegration into West Germany.

The club remained a strong force winning the Oberliga Südwest in 1952 and 1961 before the Bundesliga was formed in 1963. It was something of a surprise however that Saarbrücken were elected to the new competition as other clubs in the area such as Neunkirchen and Wormatia Worms were considered to have better playing history. Since those momentous times the club has been only sporadically successful and in 1995 a financial crisis saw them forcibly relegated to the third tier. For the 2007/08 season the club had sunk to the fourth tier but then enjoyed two straight promotions to take their place in the 3. Liga, a new third tier of the Bundesliga formed that had been formed in 2008. The club remained at this level until last season when a disastrous campaign saw them finish bottom of the table having hired four coaches during the season!

The club has played at the Ludwigsparkstadion since it opened in August 1953, defeating Rot-Weiss Essen 3-1 in the opening game. Apart from some modest renovations in 2000 the huge bowl like stadium has changed little in the intervening years. This fantastic old stadium also plays hosts to the American football team, the Saarland Hurricanes. In March 1954 with the fervour for Saarland’s independence at its peek, the fledgling nation were paired against West Germany for a qualifying match for the 1954 World Cup. Unsurprisingly Saarland lost 3-1 but the Ludwigsparkstadion held 53,000 for that fixture. Its modern day capacity of 35,303 only provides seating for a shade over 8,000 so ample terracing survives although in recent years there have been rumblings of building a new arena style stadium within the bowl itself much in the way the old Zentralstadion was modernised in Leipzig. However any feasible plans have yet to materialise and should be contextualised in that as long ago as 1998 then club president, Reinhard Klimmt, described his own stadium as a “hovel”.

Prior to playing at the Ludwigsparkstadion the club had a somewhat nomadic existence particularly in their formative years. Initially they played on a school field before using grounds called Rotplatz and Am Wallenbaum. These venues were only short term solutions as they were both hemmed in by and subsequently lost to residential housing. In September 1910 they moved to a better facility called the Terrain an der Lebacher Straße. However, after the First World War another move was needed and the Sportplatz Ludwigspark became home until 1953, although many post World War II matches were staged at the Stadion Kieselhumes which is home to Oberliga side, FC Saar 05 Saarbrücken.

This evening’s game saw Saarbrücken take on Kickers Offenbach in a fourth tier match in the Regionalliga Südwest. It is a very evenly matched contest and many chances are squandered. A header from centre back Daniel Döringer gives the hosts the lead which lasts until eight minutes from time. The visitors substitute Steven Von den Burg scored with virtually his first touch. It’s a deserved equaliser and the bosterious pyrotechnic wielding Offenbach fans celebrate a point shared in this great old stadium.

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Friday October 10th 2014 – Regionalliga Südwest

1. FC Saarbrücken (1) 1 (Döringer 13)

FC Kickers Offenbach (0) 1 (Von der Burg 82)

Attendance: 7,011 (at the Ludwigsparkstadion)


1. David Hohs; 5. Mounir Chaftar; 6. Daniel Döringer; 9. Matthew Taylor; 14. Jan Fiesser (c); 17. Christian Sauter; 20. Marius Willsch; 22. Aleksandar Pranjes; 24. Alexander Hahn; 43. Sven Sökler; 44. Peter Chrappan.

Subs: 7. Dennis Wegner (for 20, 63 mins); 8. Lukas Kiefer; 10. Patrick Zoundi; 23. Andre Mandt (for 17, 82 mins); 25. Giovanni Runco; 27. Marco Meyerhöfer (for 22, 69 mins); 28. David Salfeld.


16. Daniel Endres (c); 4. Klaus Gjasula; 5. Giuliano Modica; 6. Matthias Schwarz; 13. Jan Biggel; 14. Christian Cappek; 15. Alexis Theodosiadis; 20. Martin Röser; 23. Dennis Schulte; 30. Denis Mangafic; 31. Markus Müller.

Subs: 1. Lucas Menz; 8. Maik Vetter; 9. Benjamin Pintol (f0r 6, 75 mins); 11. Fabian Bäcker (for 13, 67 mins); 17. Stefano Maier; 22. Steven Von der Burg (for 20, 80 mins); 32. Jan Hendrik Marx.

Yellow Cards: Chaftar, Fiesser, Sauter (all Saarbrücken), Cappek, Müller (both Kickers).


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Saar prog

Saar ticket