The Little Tank (KVC Westerlo)

Football in the small Antwerpen town of Westerlo dates back to 1917 although initial attempts to build a proper town club floundered. The first club of note was SK De Bist Westerlo who were gone within five years of their formation. The next club on the map was Westerlo Football Club, formed in 1924 and given the matricule 379. Sadly their lifespan was only marginally longer than their predecessor, by March 1930 they too had disbanded.

The modern day club can trace its roots back to 1933. Two years previously the village had seen a team called Bist Sport Westerloo formed. In 1933 Westerloo Sport were founded and the two clubs enjoyed many local derbies in the provincial league. By 1942 Westerloo Sport had become Voetball Club Westerlo and Bist Sport, now known as Sportkring Westerlo had sadly folded, leaving VC Westerlo as the pre-eminent club in the town.

Westerlo eventually climbed to the top division of the Antwerpen provincial league and enjoyed derby matches against nearby KFC Heulje. After winning the Promotion B group in 1968/69 Westerlo joined the national league for the first time, although their first tilt at Division 3 was to last only two seasons. The club returned to the third tier for the 1985/86 season and after eight seasons left it through the right end, winning the league and gaining promotion to Division 2. In 1996/97 the club won promotion via the last round play-offs, to take their place in the First Division for the first time in their history. Remarkably they spent fifteen seasons in the top flight and won the Belgian Cup in 2001, beating Lommel in the final. The Cup win saw Westerlo qualify for the UEFA Cup but the yellows were handed a really tough tie and were eliminated by Hertha Berlin. In 2010/11 the club again reached the final of the Belgian Cup and although defeated this time by Standard, Westerlo again qualified for the Europa League. The Kempeneers defeated TPS Turku of Finland before bowing out at the third preliminary round stage to Swiss side Young Boys.

It seemed that the sortie into Europe proved a distraction to Westerlo they struggled all season and were relegated at the end of the 2011/12 season. They almost achieved an immediate return to the top flight but missed out in the final round play-offs. Promotion was only a season away though when Westerlo won the Second Division, four points clear of AS Eupen.

The club have played at Het Kuipje since their formation in 1933 although the ground was completely rebuilt in 2008 and 2009 adjacent to the old field which is now a training pitch. The club became only the third Belgian club, after Genk and Standard, to install undersoil heating to help deal with harsh winter weather. Het Kuipje translates as the “little tank” which folklore has it that it is a nod to the legendary Feyenoord stadium De Kuip, the tank. The current venue is very compact with cover on all four sides and a capacity a shade over 8,000.

The club finished eleventh last season in the sixteen team Pro League and will be looking to improve in this campaign. Tonight’s game is against Oud-Heverlee Leuven, themselves enjoying a quick return to the top flight. The first half is pretty poor fare with Leuven taking the lead mid way through when Macedonian striker Jovan Kostovski’s shot cannoned down off the bar and over the line. How do I know? I was dead in line with it, unlike the linesman who was frantically trying to catch up with play before guessing that the ball had indeed crossed the line. It was a lucky correct guess. The half ended when Westerlo’s full back Mitch Apau rifled in an unstoppable shot.

The quality of the second half improved immeasurably, Serb defender Nikola Petković gave the hosts the lead before their striker from Benin, Frédéric Gounongbe, cleverly bundled the ball in despite the cross being played behind him. Kostovski pulled one back for Leuven but the hosts held on to the three points which they just about deserved. The attendance given was 6,500 which looked a little over the top, but a decent crowd witnessed a good start to the season for Westerlo.

Westerlo

Jupiler Pro League – 08/08/2015

KVC Westerlo 3 (Apau 45, Petrovic 50, Gounongbe 68)

Oud-Heverlee Leuven 2 (Kostovski 22,78)

Att: 6,500 (at Het Kuipje)

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Westerlo ticket

 

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