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

Gallery

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Tubize, or not Tubize, that is the question? (AFC Tubize)

The current AFC Tubize is the result of a 1990 merger between F.C. Tubize and Amis Réunis de Tubize. The former had begun life in 1919 as Athletic Club Tubizien while Amis Réunis appeared on the scene in 1974. The old Tubize club had merged with several other clubs over the years so a merger of the two remaining clubs representing this small Walloon city made sense if the town was to compete at the highest level.

The combined club progressed quickly under the astute coaching of Theo Buelinckx and in seven seasons Tubize moved from the third division of the provincial league to the third division of the national league, a remarkable four promotions.

After Buelinckx retired the club still continued their meteoric rise, promotion to the second tier came in 2002/03 and five seasons later they were promoted to the top division for the first time in their history. 

Unfortunately for Tubize the Belgian FA decided to reduce the top division from 18 clubs to 16 for the 2008/09 season and after finishing 17th the club slipped through the trap door with Dender and Mons, Roeselare surviving in the relegation play-offs. Tubize’s one season in the top flight had required the club to increase the capacity at the Stade Leburton from 5,000 to 8,000 seats and vastly improve media facilities.

The club has remained in the Second Division without really challenging for a return to the Pro League. The most recent time the club caused some headlines was in 2013 when they signed the former Korean international Hwang Jin-Sung. The signing provoked such interest in Tubize from his homeland that in August 2014 the Korean sports marketing firm, Sportizen, bought the club in its entirety.

The Stade Leburton has a modern stand on one side with plush corporate facilities and restaurants. Behind the far end goal is a huge seated stand which has one sector segregated off for away fans. Opposite the main stand is a small well elevated covered terrace where a small band of ultras congregate. Behind the near goal is a smart clubhouse. On the approach to the ground are two enormous statues of a Belgian forward and goalkeeper, they are quite an extraordinary sight.

Something Tubize may have to work on is their customer service. The ticket seller indicated that the seated stand was not available (there were loads of empty seats), and the stewards then said all bags of any type were not permitted into the stadium! There were only 500 people in attendance and they could have easily searched all those with bags but instead insisted that they were returned to cars. Quite what someone unaware of this ridiculous rule would do with their bag if arriving by public transport is beyond me. If that doesn’t rub you up the wrong way enough the insistence of checking your ticket every time you leave or go into the stand is a considerable annoyance. The standing ticket only gets you into one sector and you cannot physically get into another sector, so the checking of tickets is absolutely pointless.

On the field Tubize are soundly beaten today by an impressive looking Lommel side. The hosts’ cause is not helped by the dismissal on the half hour mark of Mamadou Diallo for apparently elbowing an opponent. The defeat had repercussions for the Tubize coach, Thierry Goudet, who after just three months in the job was relieved of his duties in the days after this heavy loss.

Aside from the poor stewarding of the ground the Leburton is a modern venue set in a wooded hollow and makes for a pleasant afternoon. The food kiosk sells a “country” sausage which was extremely tasty. 

With this being the first season of the smaller eight team professional Division 1B, it must be a concern to the club that they only managed to pull in 500 customers for this game. It will be interesting to see how this modest club from out in the sticks will compete with the more traditional powerhouses like Antwerp, Lierse and Union Saint-Gilloise.

AUG 2016 363

Proximus League – 14/08/2016

AFC Tubize 0

Lommel United 4 (Berben 17, Cauwenberg  40, De Bruyn 68, Adesanya 90)

Att: 500

Admission €8 (standing) Programme Free

Gallery

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Tubize prog

Tubize ticket

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

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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

Deep Purple (RSC Anderlecht)

Anderlecht appear to be the team that everyone else in Belgium appears to hate, success, of course, breeds jealousy and a record 33 Belgian titles and 5 European trophies play no small part in that.

A certain part of the East Midlands also dislike the Mauves with a passion. Back in 1984 then Anderlecht president, Constant Vanden Stock, after whom the stadium is named, admitted that he bribed Spanish referee Emilio Guruceta Muro with £18,000 to ensure they qualified for the UEFA Cup final at the expense of Nottingham Forest. Brian Clough’s men were 2-0 up from the first leg at the City Ground and looked odds on to reach another European final. Enzo Scifo put the Mauves in with a shout and then Muro awarded a highly dubious penalty against Kenny Swain. A third goal came with two minutes left. Muro intervened again in injury time ruling out a perfectly legitimate Ian Bowyer goal. Forest always suspected foul play and 13 years later Anderlecht admitted that Vanden Stock had used a local gangster to set up the deception. One of football’s great bribery scandals was met with just a years ban from European competitions for the Belgians.

Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht were formed in 1908 and were awarded the Belgian FA matricule of 35. Strangely their phenomenal success has all happened since World War II. Prior to then they lived very much in the shadow of Brussels’ neighbours Union Saint Gilloise and Daring Club.
Anderlecht play at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium which was often known as the Parc Astrid after the municipal park in which it was built. The public gardens were opened in 1911 and were know as Parc du Meir until 1935 when it was renamed Parc Astrid in memory of Astrid of Sweden, consort of King Leopald III, father of King Baudouin.

Anderlecht opened their stadium in 1917 and it was inaugurated as the Stade Émile Versé after an early benefactor. Originally they played on a field call Le Scheut. The original stadium was completely rebuilt and modernised between 1983 and 1991 at a cost of £1.5 million Belgian francs. The renovations left the stadium with a capacity of 21,500. The clubs boisterous support has seen rail seats put in at either end but the relatively modest modern capacity often results in sell outs. Plans are afoot to extend the stadium to 30,000 in the near future, a great way to bring up its centenary.

Tonight’s match is a televised game against newly promoted St Truiden, owned by Roland Duchâtelet a micro electronics mogul who owns a number of clubs including Charlton Athletic. The hosts aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders but take the lead when Dennis Praet’s cross is turned in by giant front man Stefano Okaka. The mauves never really look in trouble against a toothless St Truiden attack but they squander the chance to double their lead when experienced international Steven Dufour made a mess of a penalty. Perhaps justice as the tackle on Ezekiel looked perfectly fair.

 

Ander
Sunday September 27th 2015 – Jupiler Pro League
RSC Anderlecht (1) 1 (Okaka 32)

K.St.Truiden VV (0) 0

Att: 20,300

Gallery

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Anderlecht ticket

 

 

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.

Boitsfort logo

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

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)

Gallery

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Standard ticket