Posted: 11/11/2008


      He is only 60 cm tall, is stuck in a street corner on a fountain near the Grand Place in Brussels, has 740 costumes kept in Maison du Roi (Kings House) and is the most photographed and visited site in Belgium. He is, of course. MANNEKEN PIS or le Garcon Pisse.

     Legend has it that a small boy put out a fire years ago in the natural way and saved the city, and so a small bronze statue was commissioned.  His costumes include soldiers, sportsmen(CF Barcelona), kings, princes, clowns etc. and even a bright orange glossy raincoat during 'Gay Week'. He has also been kidnapped a few times. There is a replica outside CF Botafogo in Rio de Janeiro. The Friends of Manneken Pis have a calendar of costume changes, accompanied by a ceremony including brass bands.

     In the magnificent GRAND PLACE with its town hall, guild halls and museums the crowds are always large and for 3 days and 4 floodlit nights every other summer on the second August weekend the ground is covered with a carpet of flowers. ALWAYS in intricate designs made from begonias from around Ghent, half an hour west. Begonias are beautiful and robust and can stand bad weather and strong sunshine. Intricate floral designs use tightly packed flowers-300 per square metre-about 700,000 altogether.

     The Grand Place was constructed in the early 15th Century but was destroyed along with 5,000 houses by the forces of King Louis XIV in 1695. Radiating from the Grand Place or Grote Markt are streets named after the products originaly sold there; butter, milk, coal, cheese, herring... It has been a UNESCO World Heritage city since 1998. and is a mixture of Gothic, Baroque, Louis XIV styles. Nearby are magnificent indoor Galerie Saint Hubert arcades selling exclusive clothes, chocolates, jewelry, shoes, art... with pleasant cafes.  The cafes and restaurants display their food outside and  waiters solicite business from the crowds. The restaurant area is L'IlE Sacre (Sacred Isle).

     One famous club that I had never visited before is RSC Anderlecht. I had first heard about them as a young kid when they lost 10-0 to Matt Busby's Manchester United, played at City's Maine Road, because Old Trafford still had no floodlights. They are by far the most successful Belgian club in European competition with 5 trophies, and are in the great suburb of Anderlecht, birthplace of Erasmus in 1466, rich in history and neighborhood bars.

      As you walk the short distance from the  Saint-Guiden Metro along with a crowd of purple scarved fans, there are groups drinking and chatting at their favourite bars in the tight confines of Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, on Theo Verbeecklaan, named after a former player and club president, and father of the present president, Roger Vanden Stock. There are lots of souvenir stalls and frites stalls-french fries with mayonaisse, hot dogs and burgers.

     They are giving out free match programmes outside, which are in both Flemish and French. RSCA have a following all over the country and mostsparts are at the most 2 hours away. Their opponents this Saturday evening are Lokeren, or Sporting Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen (West Flanders). The stadium, which is almost full to capacity with 24,000 spectators is modern and noisy with the fans at one end in the standing zone shouting and chanting for their Paarswit (purple & white). They are the best supported team in the JUPILER LEAGUE and have never finished lower than 6th place.

     The match didn't go to plan and the home side was 3-0 down after 60 minutes with 2 great goals by Ouwo Moussa Maazou who played like 'Peter Crouch with wings', and scored the first 2 goals with fine headers and the 3rd by DupreJonathan LeGear came on as a sub for the Paarwit and scored almost immediately and got the crowd on their feet . Argentinian Nicolas Frutos scored the second, and almost equalised a minute later, but acrobatic Lokeren goalkeeper Boubacar 'Copa' Barry with 12 caps for Ivory Coast, was in incredible form. RSCA had 69% possession, 13 to 4 corner kicks and 14 to 5 shots on goal-but no points!!

   A blog reader asked why there was no mention of football in my Battle Of Waterloo blog. Well, Arthur Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton College, across the River Thames from Windsor where many future army captains learned discipline and leadership (including 18 British Prime Ministers). He was educated there for 5 years age 11-16. Also, remember Marshall Blucher of Prussia who saved the day for the Allies? Well, in 1940 when the Nazis invaded Poland where he was buried, they dug up Bluchers grave and played football with his scull.