Monday, 1 December 2008

FC Brussels v K.A.S. Eupen

Bruges, Brussels, Belgium, Brrr....illiant.

FC Brussels 3-1 K.A.S. Eupen (30:11:08)

The Stade Edmond Machtens, home to FC Brussels.

'Do you want to go and peruse the Christmas markets in Bruges darling!?' 'As long as I can go and see FC Brussels v K.A.S. Eupen as well sweetheart'. It's the sort of conversation that often takes place between my wife and I here at EFW Towers and one that I believe will hopefully ensure a long, happy and fruitful marriage.

FC Brussels are the self proclaimed 'Pride of Brussels'. Not a bad boast when you factor in their near neighbours - just two kilometres down the road - R.S.C. Anderlecht who've won just the 5 European trophies, 29 Belgian Division One titles, 9 Belgian cups, 8 super cups and show up every year in the Champions League. In comparison FC Brussels list of honours reads thus; 1 x Belgian 2nd Division winners and 1 x Belgian Third Division A winners. Still, why let the facts get in the way of a good slogan eh!?

K.A.S. Eupen are the only 'German speaking' club in Belgium and reside in the provence of Liege, 15km from the German border. Amongst the myriad of attractions in Eupen, I suppose it's their famous chocolate museum that would make them blow their own trumpet the loudest.

Before the football in Brussels on Sunday, my wife, sister and I spent a day in Bruges at the Christmas markets. Before you start to break out in a cold sweat at the prospect, most of the wooden huts on show double up as temporary bars. Others sell a range of santa hats, which seem like a terrible idea when sober but the best concept ever when you've down a couple of 13% beers.

The view from the Belfont. Happy Christmas everyone *sniff*

The best wooden hut I saw - aside from beer stalls - was selling both Cercle Bruges and FC Bruge football memorabillia. That received a double thumbs up from me, unlike the plethora of chocolate shops in town that had stooped to selling novelty chocolate women's breasts. Nobody likes to see that sort of filth, least of all me.

It was a bit parky, or if you prefer cold in Bruges. In fact it was freezing. This meant our plans to go skating on the temporary ice rink in front of the Belfort were shelved in favour of a pub crawl. In a lot of good Belgian bars a coffee table sized book is thudded down in front of you upon your arrival. On closer inspection this book turns out to be a beer menu. Thumbing through said book and making your way through a selection of fine ales isn't a bad alternative to falling arse over tit on an ice rink.

Mmmm.....beeer. One of each please bartender.

For the record the best bars we found in Bruges were the Staminee De Garre, which was tucked away in the side streets and sold over 100 beers and housed two bars separated by a small corridor. The L'Estaminet was also a fine establishment for quaffing the local brew 'Brugse Zot'. Inexplicably, I'd also managed to book our hotel within 300 yards (ie within nightcap range) of Bruges' oldest pub - the Cafe Vlissinghe.

Me + local beer = ridiculously over sized grin.

Fair play to Bruges, it's a special place and they'd really gone to town to inject it's visitors with a bit of a Christmas belly fizz, something I hadn't felt properly since 1979 when I received a Brighton and Hove Albion Bukta kit from ol' Santa Claus.

The next morning we jumped on the train to Brussels. No need to pay of course if you've arrived in Belgium via Euro Star. Your ticket is valid for travel to and from any station in Belgium. Imagine that occurring the other way round and us allowing our Belgian friends to travel anywhere in England once they'd arrived at St Pancras - at no extra charge. Shamefully, that's never going to happen is it though Geoff Hoon - shame on you - get in the sheep pen lad. Right honourable my arse......and relax.

After marvelling at the floodlights at the King Baudouin Stadium and a visit to the Atomium in Brussels, I left my wife and sister to enjoy an afternoon of shopping in town and met up with a couple of my Belgian mates who'd travelled down from Antwerp, namely Roland Van Puyenbroeck and Steven Van Rompaey - names don't get more Belgian sounding than that do they!? I'd also arranged to meet Stephane Lievens, who'd I got to know via the EFW Facebook group in a bar outside the ground.

My wife and I at the Atomium.

There are a quite a few bars around the Stade Edmond Machtens but the king of them all is the New Daring pub just 300 yards from the ground. The bar is decked out in football memorabillia and before the match - as blokes do - we chatted happily over a few beers as if we'd known each other for years. Stephane doesn't actually follow FC Brussels, he supports RWDM and this where it all gets a bit complicated and dare I say controversial.

The New Daring pub. Our pre match venue.

FC Brussels were formed in 2003 as a result of a merger between R.W.D. Molenbeek and KFC Strombeek. In doing so the club lost the honours of RWDM and they've since gone on to form their own club in a sort of AFC Wimbledon type way. They play in the 7th tier of Belgian football and that's who Stephane now follows. The controversial bit is that they chose to merge with Strombeek who had no real affiliation or relationship with Molenbeek. They sort of brought their league status and as such a lot of fans are understandably a bit sniffy about FC Brussels.

After not nearly enough time we made our way to the ground. Where as neighbours Anderlecht attract crowds of around 28,000, The 'Pride of Brussels' draw more of a spartan throng. During the first half we chose to sit next to the away fans. How many Eupen fans had managed to drag themselves out of the chocolate museum in their city!? Answer, not many. When they took a shock lead their fans, probably more out of shock than anything else could barely muster a punch to the air.

The travelling army of Eupen supporters.

Eupen are bottom of the Belgian Division 2 for a reason. They did have four quite good players who were making a name for themselves but instead of building a team around them in the Summer, they chose to sell them all. Frankly, to use a technical term; they are total shite. So when Gregory Molnar slotted them into the lead against their hosts (2nd in the league by the way), aside from the apathy from the away fans, my Belgian friends and I afforded ourselves a little chortle. 0-1 at half time.

The FC Brussels ultras.

Paaaaaaaarty. This lot played for the whole game. My favourite tune they played!? Has to be 'Roll out the Barrel' I kid you not.

At half time I met up with footballing agent and all round good egg Stefan Van Heester. So to recap that's Stefan, Stephane, Steven and Roland. More beers flowed at half time and more stories and banter were exchanged. This really is the best part of European Football Weekends. The actual football is often just the side show.

You can't really pen a report about FC Brussels without mentioning their Chairman Johan Vermeersch. He was instrumental in bringing KFC Strombeek to Molenbeek and changing their name to FC Brussels. He also has a history of bizarre behaviour. After a defeat at Oostende 3 years ago, he threatened to throw all his players into the North sea and more recently, after a home defeat (also vs Oostende) he made them train at 4am on the pitch of an amateur outfit because "if you play like amateurs, you train like amateurs!". Lastly and astonishingly, he told Congolese playmaker Matumona Zola, after a poor game, "to go back in his tree and eat his bananas". After that comment the clubs sponsors not surprisingly withdrew their shirt deal.

Anyway, back to the game and as expected FC Brussels steamrollered Eupen in the second half scoring three goals without reply. Annoyingly, there is no such thing as a free piss in Belgium and one has to part with 50 cents everytime. On the plus side though, my visit had coincided with the clubs decision to award every fan at the game with a free beer after the match, that resulted in the loudest cheer of the day and a prolonged bout of overhead clapping from my good self.

Zola fires a last minute penalty into the roof of the net. Excuse the quality, well if they will serve up free beer what do you expect!?

After our beers, Steven or was it get this right Stephan gave us a lift back into the centre of Brussels so I could met up with my wife and sister. They'd long given up on shopping and decided instead that 8% Duvels were the order of the day. That might go some way to explaining why they were swinging a fast shoe to the spectacular Christmas light show in Grand Place when we met them

My wife and sister swinging the aforementioned fast shoe at the Grand Place. *WARNING* this video contains no football action.

Our Belgian hosts then took us to a few quality bars around town. The first of which 'Delirium Cafe' simply has to be visited if you are ever in Brussels. After a couple more in the Brasserie Vossen it was time to say goodbye to our mates and myself and the two girls headed back to Brighton via the Euro Star armed with some Jupilers beers for company.

Fancy Christmas light show in Grand Place, Brussels anyone!?

In the Brasserie Vossen (from left to right) Steven, Roland, Anna (my sister), Ana (my wife) and Danny (me).

So in Oscar ceremony style, please excuse me as I thank the following; Roland, Stephan and Steven from Antwerp for their excellent company. Stephane from Brussels for his fine hospitality. FC Brussels for giving me a free ticket and beer for the afternoon and last but not least my sister and my wife (alright that's enough - Ed) for our superb, Christmas belly fizz induced European football weekend.


Anonymous said...

Very good as usual Danny

Shaun said...

I laughed at that first paragraph, it's one I've used many times, but with different places and football clubs.

Anonymous said...

I still support FC Brussels, despite its many flaws. R. Union SG is a sinking ship (surprised you didn't visit their stadium though, they were by far the most succesful club in Belgium before WWII - lots of history there) and Anderlecht are just a bunch of insufferable cunts, so I'll take what's left ;)

Nice to see an outsider's perspective, I'll be keeping an eye on this blog.

Gerrit said...

I only read this one now (overlooked it before) but two comments:
- KAS Eupen are the only German speaking professional club in Belgium, but not the only German speaking club overall. St Vith, Raeren, Malmedy (partially German speaking) and Kelmis (now in 3rd division!) all have clubs too. In Eupen there is also a second club (which is amateur only) called FC Eupen.

- RWDM was murdered by the FA (I deliberately chose this term because the FA has been very harsh on them while turning a blind eye to some other clubs with more debts than RWDM had) and thus could no longer merge with any club. Strictly seen, FC Brussels is just KFC Strombeek which relocated to Brussels to assure a team would play in the stadium that RWDM left behind. To try to attract fans of the former RWDM the club changed its name to FC Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek, usually abbreviated to FC Brussels. They are not really a merger, although they try to brand themselves as such to attract fans from the former RWDM. The real RWDM was brutally murdered by the license commission of the FA, a real shame because it was truly a great club with a long and proud history. Some clubs with more debts were spared by that same FA for god knows what reason.