Keeping What’s Good (KFCO Beerschot-Wilrijk)

The original Beerschot club, Koninklijke Beerschot Voetbal en Atletiek Club, were formed in 1899, matricule 13, and had a glorious history including being seven time Belgian champions. From 1920 the club used the Antwerp Olympic Stadium, also known as Het Kiel (named after the district), as its home ground. The late 1960’s and 1970’s were a golden period for Beerschot as they often qualified for European competition. However, by 1999 the old club were consumed with financial problems and ended their centennial year my merging with Germinal Ekeren from the north of the city. The fused club called itself Germinal Beerschot and kept Ekeren’s matricule number of 3530 in order to maintain a place in the First Division.

The merger was attractive to Ekeren as their progress was being hampered by the restrictive confines of their ground at Veltwijckstadion. Germinal Beerschot adopted the purple colours of the old Beerschot VAC club and the yellow and red of Ekeren. Initially the merger was a success with a Belgian Cup win in 2005 and several sortie in European competitions. Germinal Beerschot changed its name in 2011 to Beerschot Antwerpen Club however just two seasons later Beerschot AC were no more. Liquidation followed their failure to present the Belgian FA with a suitable financial plan to secure a First Division operating licence.

After the collapse of Beerschot AC an unofficial merger took place with KFCO Wilrijk to produce the current club. KFC Wilrijk had been formed in 1921 and has the matricule number 155. The club enjoyed a brief stint in the Second Division in the 1930’s but spent most of their existence in either the third tier or in provincial football. In 1993 KFC Wilrijk merged with Olympia Wilrijk 72 forming KFC Olympia Wilrijk.

In order to tap into the traditional support of Beerschot, the newly merged club adopted Beerschot’s purple colours and took over the tenancy of the Olympisch Stadion. They adopted the Latin motto “Tene Quod Bene” which translates as “keep what is good”. Wise words indeed given their tempestuous recent history. The new club’s first game was in the Antwerpen Provincial League (level 5) against Ternesse VV and produced a crowd of 8,500 a record for the provincial leagues.

The new club won the Antwerp League in 2013/14 and the Promotion League in 2014/15 to climb into Division Three (Group B) for the current season. Today’s visitors are Hoogstraten VV who are perilously close to the relegation places. The hosts have continued to dominate the league and lead the table four points ahead of nearest rivals Oosterwijk. It is no surprise then that the hosts enjoy an easy win against a very lacklustre visiting team. Enjoying almost total possession the only surprise is Beerschot settle for just two goals, one in either half. On the evidence of this afternoon, few will back against Beerschot achieving a third straight promotion.

The Olympisch Stadion is less than half full today but still generates a good level of noise particularly in the main stand. Antwerp was the host city of the seventh modern Olympiad in 1920. The stadium hosted Athletics, hockey, gymnastics, equestrianism, rugby union, korfball as well as football. Many of the football matches had to be held elsewhere and the other venues used were the then newly opened Stade Joseph Marien in Brussels, Gent’s Jules Ottenstadion and the Stadion Broodstraat in Antwerp.

The Olympisch Stadion is thought to have significant input from legendary stadium architect Archibald Leitch as it is documented that he made several consultation visits to the site before it was opened. It was officially opened on May 23rd 1920 and had a sizeable capacity for the time of 27,250. The original stadium was oval in shape but much of the original stadium was demolished and replaced with three new stands in 1978. The modern day stadium has a capacity of 12,771 and is ideal for the sizeable support of Beerschot, a club with long associations with Antwerp’s bourgeoisie.

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Sunday November 8th 2015 – Third Division, Group B

KFCO Beerschot-Wilrijk (1) 2 (Ventôse 24, Vansimpsen 65)
Hoogstraten VV (0) 0

Att: 5,804 (at Olympisch Stadion)

Admission: €15

Programme: None

Gallery

The original Antwerp Olympisch Stadion, one of Archibald Leitch’s lesser known attributions.

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Underneath the Linden Trees (RRC Boitsfort)

The simply magnificent Stade des Trois Tilleuls is the largest club stadium in all of Belgium with a capacity of 40,000 yet currently plays host to modest sixth tier club Royal Racing Club Boitsfort of Division 2A of the Brabant Provincial League. Only the King Baudouin Stadium currently exceeds the capacity of the Trois Tilleuls although in its heyday the capacity was often put at an amazing 70,000!. The Three Limes Stadium (Drie Lindens in Flemish) was originally built in 1948 and lies in the Avenue des Nymphes in the quiet Brussels suburb of Watermael-Boitsfort.

The original occupants of the stadium were Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles who had just vacated their original home at the Stade du Vivier d’Oie, which still exists today as a hockey ground and was the venue for Belgium’s first international match against France in 1907.

Trois Tilleuls was built on an audacious and frankly preposterous scale with hopes at the time of being a regular host of international football. The stadium has a massive main stand and a huge sweeping terrace that wraps itself impressively around the rest of the site. The stadium was inaugurated in suitably laudable style with a match with the legendary “Il Grande” Torino side just months before the fateful Superga air crash that decimated the Italian giants.

RRC Bruxelles had only been at Trois Tilleuls for six years when they fell into dispute with the stadium’s owners and decamped to the Heysel Stadium. There they played in front of dire crowds and would subsequently merge with White Star Athletic Club in 1963 and ten years later with Daring Club de Bruxelles to form Racing White Daring of Molenbeek. Sadly the old RWDM club folded in 2002, although happily have reformed this season playing at the Edmond Machtens Stadium in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. In 2010 Trois Tilleuls was listed as a building of national arcitectural importance which should dispell any doubts about its future.

In 1985 a new Racing Club Bruxelles was formed but subsequently merged with SK Watermael and later still with Boitsfort forming the club that presently plays at Trois Tilleuls. Today the stadium is in reasonable condition although graffiti proliferates and the terracing has been shorn of all its crush barriers. The main stand has eye catching metal guard rails although these have been blighted somewhat by the addition of orange plastic mesh to prevent anyone falling from what his quite some height.

Today’s game has a low key feel to it, a very modest crowd gathers in this vast ampitheatre basked in glorious autumnal sun. The hosts are always on top despite having their early penalty wiped out by a cracking header from the visiting captain. Machelen missed a penalty themselves before losing their discipline completely with numerous bookings and conceding a second penalty in injury time which gave the hosts a comfortable win.

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Sunday September 27th 2015 – Brabant Provincial League Division 2A

RRC Boitsfort (1) 3 (Groyne pen 4, O’Brien 49, Vandenplas pen 90)

KCS Machelen (1) 1 (Madawa 22)

Attendance: 67 (at Stade des Trois Tilleuls) Entry:  €5

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Boitsfort ticket

Still Top in Oss? (FC Oss)

“No one likes Oss and we don’t care”, so says a cleverly worded banner at the rear of the stand populated by the ultras of FC Oss. For this is the current name of the club far better known by their previous name of Top Oss. Formed in 1928 as KMD (Klein Maar Dapper, which means Small But Brave) however the club soon changed their name as many other clubs already had the name KMD. The new name was TOP (Tot Plezier Ons, which means For Our Pleasure).  The club became TOP Oss in 1994 to more clearly identify with the town they represented. Sadly six years in 2009 the club dropped the “TOP” altogether and became FC Oss. Looking at the ultras flags though many of them still refer to the club as TOP Oss.

The club were briefly professional in the 1950’s when they competed in the Tweede Divisie but rejoined the amateur ranks in 1957. They only turned professional again as recently as 1991, after three amateur championship wins, and have mainly competed at the second level Eerste Divisie. A brief one season spell in the third level Topklasse in 2010/11 resulted in the club returning to the Eerste as Topklasse champions.

In 1996 the club were granted permission to renovate the old Top Oss Stadion, and work on the new grandstand started a year later. The north and west stands were completed by the end of the 1998/99 season with the North stand providing changing facilities for the amateur wing of the club. The remaining end has a “Talentencampus” opened in 2008 to house young players. Unusually FC Oss and near neighbours NEC Nijmegen have a combined youth academy system.

Oss had a reasonable season last campaign, finishing ninth, but have recently sold a number of players including goalkeeper Luuk Koopmans to PSV and back in January  Kevin van Veen  went to Scunthorpe United for 300,000 Euros. Tonight’s visitors are FC Emmen who finished fourth in last seasons table but lost out in the play-offs. The visitors look like they could be strong contenders again this campaign as their breezed to a very comfortable win, celebrated wildly by their small band of travelling supporters.

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Eerste Divisie – 07/08/2015

FC Oss 0
FC Emmen 3 (Deul 27, Kolder pen 53, Danso 72)

Att: 1,987 (at Frans Heesen Stadion)

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Oss ticket

The Kindly Count (K.M.S.K. Deinze)

Football in the East Flanders town of Deinze (pronounced Dynzer) was served in the early twentieth century by Donza Football Club Deynze and then after the First World War by Sporting Deynze which were born out of the ashes of the old Donza club. By 1921 Sporting Deynze had folded and the town were left without a football club.

In a meeting at the Café du Sport on March 12th 1926, Albert Van de Sompel chaired a meeting to form a new club to represent the town. Initially the new club, Sportkring Deinze joined the Flemish Football Association but within eight days they had been affiliated to the Belgium F.A. and were allocated the matricule number 818.

The new club opted for “non-political” colours of orange and black suggested by founding member Emil Torck whose property had links to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Having decided on a kit the choice of a home ground was problematic. The clubs’ initial friendlies were played on a pasture in Petegem-Dries with the goalposts having to be carried up from St.Hendricks College! Eventually the club approached local landowner, who rejoiced in the name of Count Sixtius Pierre Marie Ruffo de Bonneval de la Fare des Comtes de Sinapoli Calabria, he was known locally as the Castle Lord of Astene. He owned an abandoned field near the railway line and was more than happy to grant the club free use of the field known as Aston Drove. The first game at the new ground was on June 6th 1926 and a 1-1 draw ensued against the visitors of SK Nevele.

The new club though had a troubled infancy which mainly concerned their membership of the French speaking Belgian F.A. The Flemish speakers, led by founding member Albert Van de Sompel, broke away from Sportkring and formed their own club, FC Hooger Op Deinze, affiliating to the Flemish F.A.

Aston Drove was requisitioned by the Germans during World War Two and when the club regrouped after the hostilities they found their ground had been turned into a junkyard. After clearing the site the club resumed playing matches in 1946 and a year later erected a grandstand at the ground for the first time. It remained the club’s home ground until the 1970’s when the descendants of the Earl gave notice of eviction to the club so they could sell the land.

The Mayor of Deinze, Ernest Van de Wiele, stepped in and land was made available alongside Canal Schipdonk. The new ground was ready for the 1978/79 season and a year after taking up residence a new grandstand was built. This edifice had a relatively short live span when in 2005 it was replaced by the present structure which boasted meeting rooms and far superior facilities for the club. The eye-catching, tree line covered terrace was opened in 1992 when the club won promotion to the Third Division.

The club had steadfastly remained in the “promotion” league at levels four to seven for all of their existence until the late 1980’s when success finally came their way. Two second place finishes in 1989/90 and 1990/91 were followed by a championship win in 1991/92. Not content with a first ever season at the third tier, Deinze won the league for a second straight promotion. The Orange and Blacks enjoyed a sixteen season stint in the Second Division with their best finish being a third place, and qualification for the final round play offs, in 1996/97. Deinze were relegated at the end of the 2008/09 season and it took six seasons before they once again gain elevation to the second tier. A second place finish in Division 3A was achieved under the guidance of Belgium international legend, Jan Ceulemans. Despite finishing six points behind champions, KVV Coxyde, Deinze met the strict licensing rules for promotion, which sees Koninklijke Maatschappij Sportkring Deinze playing once again at the highest level in their history for the coming campaign.

Tonight’s match see’s the local side take on the might of Jupiler Pro League stalwarts SV Zulte Waregem. It’s a warm night and the pace of the first half in particular was almost sedentary. The only goal of the first period came from the skilful and hugely impressive Stephen Buyl. It was the pacy winger that struck again early in the second half before setting up captain M’baye Leye for a tap in third. The scoreline was a little harsh on the hosts but they will certainly need to sharpen their own forward play for the challenges of Division Two.

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Saturday July 4th 2015 – Friendly

K.M.S.K. Deinze (0) 0

SV Zulte Waregem (1) 3 (Buyl 20, 55, Leye 59)

Attendance: c.800 (at Burgemeester Van De Wielestadion)

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Deinze ticket

The Reunion (FC Beringen)

Not untypically for a Belgian football club FC Beringen have a protracted history punctuated by some considerable success, crushing nadirs and a myriad of mergers. The club’s naissance can be traced to 1924 when a new football club called Cercle Sportif Kleine Heid was formed in the Limbourg town of Beringen. A year later the name was changed to Beeringen FC and in 1926 the club affiliated to the Belgian Football Association being granted the matricule number 522 in the system for logging the hierarchy of Belgian clubs.

The club rose steadily through the provincial leagues and by the outbreak of World War II had won promotion to the Belgian second division. Football was then suspended and Beeringen had to wait until peacetime to take up their place in the national leagues. During the regionlised war leagues, Beeringen had some heated derby games with local rivals VV Vigor.

In 1950 the club became the first Limbourg club to be promoted to the Division Honneur, the then name for Belgium’s top flight. The club spent much of the 1950’s and 1960’s rising and falling between the top two divisions. The pinnacle came in 1963/64 when the club narrowly missed winning the Belgian league, finishing just four points short of the champions Anderlecht. After relegation in 1970, a return to the top flight for the 1972/73 season was marked by the club changing their name to Beringen FC.

During an extended period in the top flight Beringen fielded some of Belgium most famous names like Julien Cools and Wilfried Van Moer in their side. They rode their luck at times, at the end of both the 1975/76 and the 1980/81 campaigns the club had finished in the relegation places, only to be reprieved by punishments handed out to other clubs. Firstly La Louviere and then Beerschot were found guilty of corruption and on each occasion Beringen were the beneficiaries. However, after the second miracle salvation the luck run out and Beringen went down after ten seasons in the top flight.

That was really the beginning of the end for the Bears, by 1995 they were back in the provincial leagues and despite boasting an ageing Nico Claessen, the former Tottenham striker, in their ranks they stayed in the fourth tier until financial problems engulfed the club. At the end of the 2001/02 the club were left with no choice but to merge with long time rivals VV Vigor, to form KVK Beringen. As Vigor was the senior club in terms of age, having being formed in 1913, the clubs were fused to Vigor’s matricule of 330. Beringen’s previous matricule 522 was officially declared defunct.

Until 2004 the merged club would play at Beringen’s superb Mijnstadion until the local council decreed they should move back to Vigor’s Sportpark de Motbemden. However, to add insult to injury for diehard Beringen supporters the Mijnstadion was then occupied by SK Heusden Zolder who immediately became Beringen Heusden-Zolder SK. However the cuckoo in Beringen’s traditional nest only lasted two years before they too went to the wall.

Opened in 1925, “the Mine Stadium” dated from a time when the town had become affluent from the growth of coal mining in the area. Built on no small scale even in its dotage the stadium could easily hold 10,000 people. However since the demise of the interlopers at the Mijnstadion, the great old stadium has been as something of ageing mausoleum to the old Beringen club. The Mijnstadion is now only used for occasional friendly matches by the likes of SK Lierse but more often for Belgium’s youth and under age teams as well as for coaching and refereeing courses.

Today is unashamedly all about nostalgia. A plethora of former FC Beringen alumni are presented to the crowd including Cools and Van Moer, the affection and esteem they are held in is palpable. Roy Dannarag, a charismatic Surinam born winger from Beringen’s great team from the mid seventies, effortlessly juggled a ball to the cheers of the watching crowd. Hard to believe he was now 65. Much to the delight of the old players they had a surpise guest themselves when 88 year old Kees Rijvers, Beringen manager in the early 1980’s, joined them on the pitch having travelled from his home in Breda to attend the reunion. After this two teams of veterans from the old club and near neighbours FC Deist play out and entertaining match in searing heat. There is also a wonderful pop up museum with numerous artefacts displayed lovingly and powerfully recalling the glory days at the Mijnstadion. In the corner of the clubhouse is a screen showing vintage black and white footage of the day when Beringen took on the might of Anderlecht as title rivals rather than a team of upstarts from a sleepy provincial backwater. 22,000 packed the Mijnstadion that day with people sat on classroom chairs and beer crates to within inches of the touchlines. Heady days indeed. Therein lies the real tragedy of Beringen. One of the organisers of today’s fantastic event told me while he is grateful that his club still functions in name only at the ground of Vigor, he said “Every time we return to the Mijnstadion its not the same as it was and every time we come back it feels like my heart is bleeding.” The sadness in his eyes and voice were genuinely moving because Beringen could easily be any club, yours and mine included.

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Saturday July 4th 2015 – Exhibition Match

K.F.C. Beringen 4 (Maes 4, Willems 40, Barka 42, Zimbicki 43)

K.F.C. Diest 1 (Frederix 34)

Attendance: 500 (at Mijnstadion)

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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 call 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)

Sobemai:

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

Kermis:

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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