Another blank midweek for Fareham and a look at all the fixtures. Belgium’s 2nd Division are having an “English Week” with a full set of midweek games and the one that stood out for me was in Brussels and Union St Gilloise’s art deco stadium.
Upon arriving in Brussels like all good tourists, it would be rude not to take in the sites and the one we had time for was Stade Adrien Bertelson, now home to Brussels League side Maccabi Brussels. This is also the former home of RFC La Forestoise who had a spell in the first division in the 1940’s until they merged in 1996 with Royal Uccle Leopold.
Whilst there was athletics training going on, we were welcome to walk round and take photos and what a stadium. Huge sweeping overgrown terraces around an athletics track with an old wooden stand (used as the athletes kit bag store room at the time) with concrete crush barriers too.
After that is was a quick trip to the supermarket on the corner to restock the Belgian beer crates. Beer is the staple diet of Belgians and they do a bloody job in brewing it with their supermarkets selling a large range and its cheap too. What costs you £4-50 in a pub/bar here costs around €1 in the supermarkets and generally comes in 6 packs, so no need to splash out excessively or buy whole cases of one particular beer.
Then a quick pit stop at a typical Belgian beer house but one with a difference. Moeder Lambic bar on Rue de Savoie. Lambic beer is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it, Think of bitter ciders and you’ll get the idea. Lambic brewing is Unlike conventional beers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer’s yeasts, lambic is produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Zenne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour.
Finally to the ground itself the Stade Josef Marien. Parking is of the street environs around the ground so with a spot secured we headed to the ticket office and despite the damp day and night, decided to stand for €10 (at todays exchange rate of 1.32 = £7.70) which is less than some Step 5 clubs in Englands are charging for 2nd Division football.
As for the stadium, it takes your breath away. Built when the club were a powerhouse in the early 20th century, indeed between 1933 and 1935 they didn’t lose a game in that period. The experts on Bargain Hunt would go crazy over its Art Deco exterior. There’s more borded up old ticket windows than in your average high street and really one to be seen to be believed.
Whilst no programme was available, team sheets were freely handed out by the main entrance with its stained glasses panels and marble busts of former club officials and the stewards were happy for us to go in and take photos of these.
Then to the club bar which I bet has changed little in years. As per usual in Belgium is was the token system – You buy your tokens in one place and hand them over at the bar for your drink.
Finally it was time to head into the ground itself. First thing you notice as you walk through is the old George & Dragon/Whitbread Ales sign hanging from the wall of the clubhouse, the customary search and you’re in. Very much a 2 sided ground. Both ends flattened out. There’s evidence of old overgrown terrace in a fenced off part where a scoreboard stands not that it was used tonight.
One side is the main stand all along one side with a paddock terrace in front of it. The far end of it housing the 70 or so away fans, whilst opposite is a 40+ step terrace where the majority of the crowd which looked approx 1000 stood and got the atmosphere cranking up louder and more boisterous as the game went on.
As for the actual match itself, it was a typical tight Belgian 2nd Division game, not helped by the visitors being reduced to 10 men before half time thus camping in their own half to try and secure a point and all seemed to be going well in that regard as chances were few and far between for the home side until a sweet volley by Faure in the 89th minute sent the place into raptures, Flares lit, plastic beer glasses and contents flying everywhere and this continued well after the final whistle when the USG went over to them to not only applaud their supporters for their backing, but keeper Anthony Sadin actually led the singing!
A shame we had to leave but leave we had to, making it back to Dunkerque in plenty of time for the 2am ferry back to Dover.
Belgian 2nd Division
Union St Gilloise 1-0 Lommel Utd
Admission €10, Free teamsheet,
Att: Given as 750 but looked more
Beer by token system €2,
Black Pudding Hot Dog €3.50