Over The Rainbow (SV Zulte-Waregem)

The current club SV Zulte-Waregem is the result of a 2001 merger between former top flight club KSV Waregem and Zultse VV. KSV Waregem were formed in 1925 as Waereghem Sportif and spent nearly 30 seasons in the top division of Belgian football. Their best finish in the top flight was fourth which they achieved on three occasions, most recently in 1992/93. Waregem also won the Belgian Cup in 1974, defeating KSK Tongeren 4-1 in the final. They also had a decent pedigree in Europe, even reaching the semi final of the UEFA Cup in 1985/86. They defeated Aarhus (6-2 on aggregate), Osasuna (3-2), AC Milan (3-2), Hajduk Split (won on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate draw) before bowing out 7-3 on aggregate to 1.FC Köln.

Ten years later Waregem ended their time in the top division and by 1999 had sunk to the third tier. By 2001 debts had become insurmountable and the club only survived in any form by merging with Zultse VV, adopting the latter’s matricule and rebranding as SV Zulte-Waregem.

The newly merged club won promotion to the top flight in 2004/5 and a year later defeated Excelsior Mouscron in the final to win the Belgian Cup. This took “Essevee” into the UEFA Cup the following season. After successfully negotiating a group that included Austria Wien, Espanyol, Sparta Prague and Ajax, the Reds succumbed to Newcastle United in the round of 32.

The 2012/13 campaign saw Waregem finish runners up in the Pro League to Anderlecht falling just two points short of the title. A second Belgian Cup came the clubs’ way last season when they defeated KV Oostende 4-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

The new club had its offices in Zulte but used the former home of KSV Waregem, the Regenboogstadion. The “Rainbow” Stadium was opened in 1957 as the host venue for the UCI World Road Cycling championships. The name of the stadium comes from the rainbow jersey worn by the World Road bike champion. The stadium holds 12,500 at present but work is underway to in fill two more corners, the lakeside corner already being opened and used to house away fans. The stadium was significantly renovated in 2015, to become UEFA compliant, the club had previously held many of its European ties at Gent. Once the corner stands have been completed the stadium will hold 14,300 people.

Tonight’s game is a big derby match against near neighbours, KV Kortrijk. The away fans released a big red flare as the game kicked off while Zulte’s ultras released red and green smoke bombs in the steep terrace behind the goal. Its a noisy start to the game but the visitors puncture the fervor when Teddy Chevalier arrived unmarked in the hosts penalty area to open the scoring. Zulte almost immediately levelled with a goal from Peter Olayinka. Kortrijk took the lead again on 40 minutes when Bennard Kumordzi nodded in a lose ball. Again Zulte had the chance of an almost instant reply when they were awarded a penalty. However the chance was missed when Timothy Derijck’s weak spot kick was saved by Thomas Kaminski in the Kortrijk goal. Moments into the second half though, Zulte had their equaliser when Onur Kaya netted in front of the ultras.

Despite both side going for it in an open second half, there were no further goals and perhaps a draw was the right result. Kortrijk’s fans were clearly pleased with the result as their fans let off a barrage of red smoke bombs outside the ground much to the consternation of the local police.

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September 9th 2017 – Jupiler Pro League (09/09/2017)

SV Zulte-Waregem 2 (Olayinka 15, Kaya 49)

KV Kortrijk 2 (Chevalier 13, Kumordzi 40)

Att: 9,000
Admission €20 no programme but teamsheet freely available from press area.

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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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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.

 

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

K.St.Truiden VV (0) 0

Att: 20,300

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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

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