Arrogantwerp (Royal Antwerp FC)

Royal Antwerp were formed as Antwerp Athletic Club in 1880 by English students living in the city. It is generally accepted that the club is the oldest in Belgium so when the Royal Belgian FA introduced its matricule system, the revered inventory of registration and hierarchy, Antwerp were awarded the coveted matricule No.1.

The club has won the Belgian Championship on four occasions but since their last relegation from the top flight in 2004 the club has experienced some particularly lean years. One of the last highlights for the Reds came in 1992/3 when they defeated Glenavon, Admira Wacker, Steaua Bucharest and Spartak Moscow on their way to the European Cup Winners Cup Final. They were defeated 3-1 in the final at Wembley by Parma but had the tournaments top scorer with 7 goals by Belgian International Alex Czerniatynski.

Those somewhat distant glory games were of course played in front of packed houses at the mythical Bosuilstadion, home to the club since 1923. Prior to this the Reds played at another substantial ground called the Stadion Broodstraat which had been opened in 1908 and was used as a primary football venue for the 1920 Summer Olympics held in the city.

The Bosuilstadion has held many famous matches including the 1964 Cup Winners Cup final between Sporting Club Portugal and MTK Budapest as well as numerous international matches for the Belgian national team. Markedly there has been no Belgian internationals played at the venue since 1988. The stadium is something of an oddity, the two ends are relatively modern with one being a glazed VIP stand, opened in 1991, for those with enough money to want to watch live football minus any semblance of the atmosphere. The structure has been branded “the fishbowl” for obvious reasons. The atmosphere at the Bosuilstadion is so legendary that it became widely known as the “Hell of Derne” such was the intimidating environment for visiting teams. At its peak the Bosuil (Dutch for “Tawny Owl”) could accommodate some 60,000 spectators.

The two sides of the stadium have ancient edifices, both in some considerable need of renovation. The poor state of repair meant that the stadium was not considered as a host venue for Euro 2000 although the new stand behind the goal is testament to failed plans for a total renovation in readiness for an application. In more recent years the two ancient stands have deteriorated further, signs have been put up that read “do not jump, danger of collapse”. It took an injury to a supporter in the vintage 1923 main stand to provoke some work to the interior of this old leviathan. This is now the most expensive area of the stadium in which to sit, VIP area excluded. The central seats for this game were €60 while modern plastic seats to either side can be yours for €25 a piece. Had I remained in my allocated seat both goals would have been totally obscured by a rail barrier from the old configuration of the stand. A small and unused terraced paddock area has been created underneath the seating but looks awkward and incongruous with the rest of the stand. Typically the renovations look like they have been done cheaply rather than investing properly for the future. The stand is still hampered by a leaking roof, temporary toilet facilities and a lack of lighting on the way out.

The majority of “the Great Old’s” season ticket holders are housed in the magnificent curved Tribune 2 opposite the main stand, replete with original bench seating. It too is in a pretty poor shape the top right hand corner is fenced off due to safety concerns. The noise from this tribune, however, is immense and a veritable sonic boom erupts when the players enter the field or Antwerp find the net.

They do that only once tonight against plucky visitors from West Flanders, KSV Roeselare. The goal came from the most impressive player on the pitch, the tricky little winger, Stallone Limbombe and it was enough to secure a first win of the new season for The Great Old.

So what to make of the Bosuilstadion? Old school stands, massive floodlights (albeit only 3 of them since one blew down in a storm), and terrific support tick many people’s boxes. However, expensive tickets, quite frankly dangerous infrastructure and a lack of direction of the future of the stadium must be a concern. The previous board of the club seemed content to plod knowing they could rely on the unswerving support of the fans yet offering them little in the way of creature comforts. Maybe it was the old board espousing the long held opinion that Antwerp natives are “superior” and often arrogant in demeanour, several locals at the game wore tee shirts with the phrase “Arrogantwerp” emblazoned on them. Clever use of language but the arrogance and presumptuousness of the old Antwerp board could have resulted in a serious stadium incident. Hopefully the more progressive board now in power will provide the magnificent fans of this club with the kind of future they absolutely deserve.

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Proximus League – 13/08/2016

Royal Antwerp 1 (Limbombe 59) SV Roeselare 0

Att: 11,118 (at Bosuilstadion)

Admission €25 Programme €2

Gallery

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Antwerp prog

Antwerp ticket

 

 

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.

Beerschot badge

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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Beerschot ticket

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