There is no more passionate crowd than in The Sclessin Stadium, home of Royal Standard de Liege, who I have written about many times,(8/30/2008) and is 'my' team in Belgium. Thursday night the crowd sang You'll Never Walk Alone, and was Anfield plus sound.. They beat Sevilla 1-0 in The UEFA CUP in which they have had a great season.
To celebrate I ate a Liege Waffle-no ordinary waffle. It was warm, covered in butter and then piled high with sliced bananas and strawberries, then whipped cream and hot chocolate sauce-no ordinary waffle!! I leave French speaking Wallonia, which is basicly the South and East of the country and stay in Brussels the dual language capital, at Hotel de France, a 200 metre walk from Gare du Midi, which has proved convenient for me many times. I take the Metro out to King Baudouin Stadium and a meeting at the The Belgian FA in their huge HQ building next door to the stadium and in the shadow of the Atomium built for the 1958 Worlds Fair.
The stadium, used by the national team and for EURO 2000 is on the site of the infamous Heisel Stadium, a death trap for Juventus fans prior to the 1985 European Cup Final. The stadium was in poor shape and the Belgian FA ,the City and UEFA should never have allowed it to be used, and they sold tickets on the day to rival fans with only a flimsy wire fence seperating them. The Liverpool fans charged, easily broke down the fence, and there were many crushed bodies, 39 killed and 600 injured.
On Friday I travel to Brugge, the Flemish masterpiece, one hour west. Belgian Rail has a splendid deal for us old folks-4 Euros round trip anywhere in the country. I take a bus to Jan Breydel Stadion on Olympialaan and meet with the Cercle Brugge GM Guido Vandewalle and staff and then back to the Old Town and the incredible floodlit canals,(called reien) old houses and buildings to The Market Square. There I have an early pre-match dinner, Belgian vegetable soup, Brugge beef stew, and LOTS of french fries. They even have a french fries museum here, a beer museum and a lace museum-not forgetting the chocolate museum. I pass on other local food offered on the menu; snails, herring, mussels, eels, oysters and cute bunny rabbits!
In the centre there are shops displaying their chocolate creations. Numerous flavours and shapes including violins, houses, soccer balls and ladies BOOBS, small, medium and Hollywood 'enhanced' gigantic size boobs that melt in your mouth(so I am told)!
At the stadium which Cercle share with the much larger and successful Club Brugge we have a Jupiler League match Cercle v Zulte-Wagarem, from 70 km away in Flanders. They are 10th and 11th in mid table which is led by Club Brugge followed by Anderlecht, Racing Genk and Standard Liege. There are only 8,200 fans but they are very vocal. The stadium is named after 13th Century Jan Breydel, leader of the Brugge Matins-a violent uprising against Philip the Fair (I guess he couldn't have been THAT fair). I have a pre-match Jupiler beer and cake in the press centre, and at half-time a Rodenbach beer.
Stijn De Smet scores for the green and black home team after 42 minutes, and in injury time Zimbabwe import Vuzu Nyani makes it 2-0.The best player on show is Tom de Sutter who will join Anderlecht in January 2009 for a large fee. They also have a couple of Ukrainians, with Sergiy Serebrenniker born in Ulan Ude,Siberia, and for a short time with Dynamo Kiev, having a superb match. In the press box I sit next to a couple of young guys who write reports for the visitors,Nicolas and Bart. Their small club is a combination of two nearby clubs, but some time ago Wagerem on their own played AC Milan in the San Siro Stadium.