Posted: 8/30/2008
Title: LEIGE SETS THE STANDARD

Blog:                                                                                                                         

     The soccer world has been impressed by the performance of RSL- Royal Standard de Liege, the Belgian club that held the mighty Liverpool for 90 minutes in Belgium 0-0 and to the 118th minute of the return leg at Anfield, before succuming to a very late goal by Dirk Kuyt.

     Their 'reward' for losing was to be drawn with the other Liverpool club from the blue half of Meseyside, Everton FC in the next round of the UEFA CUP, where losing teams in the final preliminary round of The Champions League get another chance.

    I have favourite teams in different countries in Europe, and Standard Liege, from the Walloon, or French speaking part of Belgium are the team that I support.  Many years ago when I was a student, I was hitch hiking in Europe. After a ferry to Ostende a college mate and myself hitch-hiked to Brussels and then were heading for Liege, and on to Aachen, Koln and down through Germany to Yugoslavia. Anyway, we were stuck in the evening on the side of the Brussels-Liege highway after being dropped off at a small village. We had our thumbs out for about 3 hours with no luck until lots of cars came by with fans in red and white hats, scarves, flags and horns. One passenger dropped a flag by accident. It was red and white with the Standard Liege crest. I waved it and jumped up and down, shouting Standard! Standard!, until within 5 minutes we were 'rescued' by Standard fans 'Les Rouches' and taken 'home', where we found beds in the youth hostel.

    Many years later I was in Liege with a Belgian, FIFA referee friend Jean-Francois Crucke who I notice now has the 'dream job' of being a UEFA Match Commissioner, travelling in style to Champions League, UEFA Cup and World Cup preliminary matches. He was refereeing a pre-season friendly,Standard vs Johann Cruyff managed CF Barcelona. I chatted with General Manager Roger Henrotay, a former RSL and Belgian international and told him my tale. Afterwards we went out to La Lanterne a great restaurant owned by a former Ajax player that I knew. I have supported them ever since, though they have had some lean years until recently. On my next visit I gave an interview with Belgian TV about the unusual reason for my support.  Liege is an old coal mining and steel town, and on my first visit their training pitch was made of crushed coal dust, and in pre-match activities they had face blackened coal miners walking round the pitch at their Sclesin Stadium, which was much improved for the EURO 2000 tournament.

    Another local team RFC Liege is down in the 3rd Diviion these days but famous for refusing to release Jean-Marc Bosman in 1980 which led to 'The Bosman Ruling' that changed European soccer forever. A famous former native is Georges Simenon, author of the Detective Maigret books and TV movies.

   Legendry goalie Michel Preud'hHomme left in a huff after the end of the season after bringing them their first Belgian 'Jupiter League' title for 25 years and is now coaching KAA Gent, but new Romanian born coach Laszlo Boloni has not slackened up. They have a very big team and centre back is USA international Oguchi Onyemu. They were the better team in the first leg, missing a penalty, and gave as much as they took in the cauldron of Anfield.

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