Kings Of A Wild Frontier (Royal Excel Mouscron)

The original Royal Excelsior Mouscron were formed in 1922 as Stade Mouscronnais. They adopted their current name in 1964 when Stade merged with rival town team ARA Mouscron. Mouscron is a French speaking city with the border separating it from the French town of Tourcoing. Mouscron (the “s” isn’t actually pronounced) itself was a French town until the 19th century.

The clubs’ greatest achievement was in 1993-94 when the finished as runners up to Sint-Truiden in the Belgian Second Division. The club were also Belgian Cup finalists in 2002 and 2006 losing to Club Brugge and Zulte-Waregem on each occasion. 

In 1990 Excelsior merged with Rapid Club Luingnois. The club qualified for the UEFA Cup on two occassions, the first was in 1997-98. The “Frontaliers” defeated Cypriot side Apollon Limassol before losing 6-1 on aggregate to FC Metz. The second occasion was 2002/03 when Icelandic side Fylkir were beaten before Excel lost heavily again in the next round, this time 7-3 on aggregate to Slavia Prague.

Just a year or so after their European adventures, Excel hit severe financial problems in 2004 and were forced into a fire sale of their best players in order to survive. It should have served as a warning to the club but in 2009, when the side was managed by former national team hero, Enzo Scifo, the club collapsed. Manchester City offered to by the ailing club as a nursery club but the offer fell through and Excel were forced into liquidation.

In order to preserve professional football in Mouscron and at the Stade du Canonnier, home to Excel since 1930, talks were entered into with nearby club RRC Péruwelz, who themselves had been formed in 1921. Talks were successful and Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz were formed taking the the latter’s matricule of 216. In the time honoured tradition the failing club had their matricule, in Mouscron’s case 224, removed by the Belgian FA.

Some supporters of RRC Péruwelz were unhappy at leaving their own Stade de la Verte Chasse, and formed their own amateur club Péruwelz FC. 

2012 was a great year for the new club, they became champions of the third division and also won the historic Trophée Jules Pappaert. The following season the club were promoted to the too flight having finished as runners-up to KV Oostende. 

In something of a surprise move this season the club has reverted back to the name Royal Excel Mouscron and have dropped the Péruwelz reference despite retaining Péruwelz’s matricule.

Mouscron’s traditional home, the Stade du Canonnier, was most recently renovated in 1999 when a new main stand was opened. The club also own a huge training complex called Futurosport which covers 23 hectares and itself has a show pitch with a seated stand for 1,000 people. Due to its hemmed in location amongst residential streets the Canonnier will never be able to be expanded much beyond its current 11,000 capacity and the clubs’ owners have earmarked the potential development of a new stadium at the Futurosport site in the not to distant future.

This evening’s visitors are mighty Club Brugge sitting on top of the Jupiler Pro League with maximum points from the opening five rounds of games. However, Excel have also made a useful start to the campaign but its Club that attack from the offset of this match. Somewhat against the run of play the hosts were awarded a penalty which pacy frontman Jonathan Bolingi gratefully converted. The lead lasted barely eight minutes when a sweeping Brugge move saw Stefano Denswil drill home an equaliser. However, the 14 time Belgian champions were stung again just before half time when Excel scored again with a towering header from Bolingi. The visitors dominated the second half but could not find a way through a well drilled Mouscron defence. The hosts survived five minutes of stoppage time to record a famous victory.

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Sunday September 9th 2017 – Jupiler Pro League 

Royal Excel Mouscron 2 (Bolingi pen 18,40)

Club Brugge KV 1 (Denswil 26)

Att:9,579 

Admission €12, free teamsheet given away in supporters bar.

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Too Much, Too Young (KVV Coxyde)

Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging Coxyde were formed in 1934 and by complete coincidence they were given the Belgian FA matricule of 1934 and until recent times played in the provincial leagues. In 2008 they gained promotion to the Fourth Division and immediately went up to the third tier despite the sudden death of their coach Jan Merlevede in April 2009 aged only 44.

In 2012 they finished a creditable seventh place but then suffered a huge point deduction for fielding an unregistered player for much of the season. They were forced into contesting the end of season play offs which saw them successfully remain in the third tier. The success continued in 2014/15 they won the Third Division A section to secure a first ever promotion to the second tier. The reorganisation of the second tier of Belgian football for this season saw the club not granted a licence for the eight team Proximus League and were placed in the sixteen team Eerste Klasse Amateurs.

The current season has been something of a nightmare for the over achieving coastal club from West Flanders. The cost of trying to compete with the likes of Antwerp, Cercle Brugge, Roeselare and Union St Gilloise has weighed heavy on he club. A weaker squad was contracted for the first season in the new third tier and results have been appalling. After an emergency meeting the club has asked the Belgian FA for voluntary demotion to the four tier so the club can regroup financially. It is strange that the rejigging of the structure was purely designed to help prevent more clubs going bust is already finding its own victims. The primary reason for Coxyde’s demotion request is their inability to meet the fiscal demands of their status as defined by the FA.

As a result today’s match has very much an end of season feel to it as both sides are doomed to the drop. The hosts are third bottom in the table and the visitors, Royal Sprimont-Comblain Sport, are second bottom propped up only by KMSK Deinze who have suffered a massive points deduction due to fielding an unregistered player in multiple matches this season.

The hosts were already a goal down when a red card for Bruno Kwani for a last man foul made their task almost impossible. Sprimont added three more goals to their tally and managed to the woodwork on no less than five occasions. It really was one way traffic from start to finish with the hosts looking a poor and totally dispirited team. An attendance of 198 was given which I learned including season ticket holders not present at the game. A head count showed only 127 in the stadium, proof enough that football in such remote outposts garners little or no interest from locals which is a great pity. The story of KVV Coxyde is a cautionary tale for like minded clubs of the folly of achieving too much too soon.

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Sunday March 19th 2017 – Eerste Klasse Amateurs

KVV Coxyde 0
Royal Sprimont-Comblain Sport 4 (Sahuke 19, Kouemaha 39,60, Carvalho 83)

Att: 198

Admission €12 (seat) €10 (standing)
Free club magazine, free teamsheet

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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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This is Sclessin (Standard de Liège)

Royal Standard de Liège are one of the great names in Belgian fooball although they are sometimes known by the Dutch or German spelling of Luik or Lüttich. The club was formed in September 1898 by pupils of the Collège Saint-Servais the club has the matricule number of 16.

Progress was rapid and by 1909 Standard were in the top flight of Belgian football. This was also the year the club settled in the Liège suburb of Sclessin having initially played on a hillside at Cointe. At the turn of the century Standard moved to the velodrome at Boverie which sat along the banks of the River Meuse and had been used at one point by arch rivals FC Liège. In 1904 the club were given notice that the velodrome would become part of the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1905 Universal Exhibition, forcing the club to move again this time to Grivegnée. Again it was a short-lived arrangement when the owner kicked the club out of the field in 1909 the club were forced to look elsewhere yet again. They settled on a meadow on the banks of the Meuse which they initially rented for 300 francs a year. They have remained there ever since.

Standard were relegated from the top flight but by 1921 had returned to the elite and have never since been relegated, the longest unbroken run in the top tier of any Belgian club.

By 1925 the Stade de Sclessin already had a capacity of 25,000 and underwent expansion both in 1940 when a new tribune added 10,000 places and in 1973 when capacity was increased to 43,000. In 1999 the stadium was substantially upgraded for Euro 2000 and became all-seater for the first time with capacity for 27,500. Since then the club has experimented with “safe standing” in Tribune 4. This takes the current capacity to a shade over 30,000. There are plans to increase capacity once again to 50,000 to obtain UEFA’s prestigious five star rating.

Standard are a hugely successful club domestically. The Reds have won ten Belgian championships (the first in 1957/58 and most recent in 2008/09) and six Belgian cups. They also have a strong history in European competitions with their best performance coming in 1981/82 under coach Raymond Goethels. Playing a brand of football that had been dubbed “Raymond Science” the club had beaten Floriana (12-2 on aggregate), Vasas Budapest (4-1), Porto (4-2) and Dinamo Tblisi (2-0) on the way to the final of the Cup Winners Cup. In the final at Camp Nou, Standard took an early lead through Guy Vandersmissen but eventually lost 2-1 to Barcelona.

The Goethels period at Standard had yielded two League titles and two Belgian Supercups. However, his tenure at the club ended in shame and scandal when it was discovered that Standard players had bribed the Waterschei team to throw the last game of the 1981/82 season. The bribe meant Standard won the league two points ahead of Anderlecht. The deceit wasn’t discovered until 1984 when many players were banned and Goethels fled to Portugal to avoid a similar fate.

The Waterschei affair was deeply damaging and it was 25 years until Standard won the league again under former international goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme. They retained the title the following season under the Romanian László Bölöni.

In June 2011 the club was bought by Roland Duchâtelet, a billionaire micro electronics mogul. He has also bought other clubs in recent years including Charlton Athletic, AD Alcorćon and Carl Zeiss Jena. Duchâtelet recently sold his majority shareholding in Standard in order to concentrate on the other Belgian club in his portfolio, Sint-Truiden. Notably since the sale to Duchâtelet, Standard has had seven managers, the latest incumbent being the Serb, Slavoljub Muslin.

Tonight’s match is something of an attritional affair, Standard as you would expect dominate possession but in centre forward Mohamed Yattara they seem to have an inadequate replacement for recent goalscoring heroes like Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi. Poor of touch and profligate with chances with an alarming frequency, Yattara has his work cut out if he is to truly win over the Sclessin faithful.

Ah Sclessin. You can give this stadium any name you like but it will always be the Stade de Sclessin, the very heartbeat of this heavily industrial area. The stadium is officially known as the Stade Maurice Dufranse after the Standard chairman who bought the club to Sclessin in 1909.

Doughty defending and helpful woodwork keep Waasland Beveren in the game although they do not look like scoring themselves. The decisive break came just after the hour when a scrappy bundled goal from Ricardo Faty settled the game.

In truth it’s not a gripping spectacle on the field, but the partizan and noisy home support made for a great occasion. The unrelenting support in galvanising the team was fully recognised by the Standard players as legendary skipper Jelle Van Damme led his troops over to the ultras section in Tribune 3 at the final whistle. The players joined in the chanting and showed great respect to the paying supporters.

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Jupiler Pro League – 09/08/2015

Standard Liège 1 (Faty 63)
Wassland-Beveren 0

Att: 23,232 (at Stade Maurice Dufranse)

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Standard ticket