Belgian Jupiler Pro League
Stadium ‘Constant Vanden Stock’
SUNDAY 30th NOVEMBER 2014
Belgian season – Matchday 17
In a country where luxury chocolate is often held in more importance than football and where football stands are occasionally simply named Nord, Oost, Zuid and West its hard to convince many fans of the rivalry that Belgium has a self styled ‘hate game’.
A ‘derby’ is of course a well worn form of terminology used in modern football. From Argentina to Serbia the term is used to describe intense match-ups often between two inner city rivals. From Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Belgrade to London and Rome most cities have football clubs where ‘derby day’ is seen as the main event in the calendar for fans, players and the media.
So while the likes of Inter versus AC Milan or Celtic versus Rangers feature huge levels of inner city intensity and often animosity some of the more modern football rivalries make no sense geographically. The modern Liverpool versus Manchester United or Ajax v Feyenoord rivalries have grown out of success both enjoyed in the 60’s and 70’s.
In Belgium the Club Brugge and Anderlecht rivalry has grown in strength and intensity. The rivalry between the two Belgium clubs grew out of a sustained period of success for the two when both clubs were regarded amongst European football’s elite. Club Brugge had reached a UEFA Cup final in 1976 and a European Cup final at Wembley in 1978 only to lose both to Liverpool.
Anderlecht, the giants from the capital, can however point to three major European trophy successes including two European Cup Winners Cup titles and a UEFA Cup won in suspicious circumstances in 1983.
In a country that is virtually always seen as the symbol of absurdity, it is an unusual rivalry given the 100km distance between the two cities.
On a cold, dry Sunday afternoon the two clubs met in the Belgium capital; gameday 17 of the Belgian season. Out in the Anderlecht district of the Belgian capital stands the Stadium Constant Van Den Stock the home of Anderlecht. Founded in 1908 as Royal Sporting Club Anderlechtois, when Brussels already had five other clubs in the First Division, Anderlecht have played here since 1913 and it was originally called the Stade Emile Verse.
Despite not winning the first league title until 1947 Anderlecht have since then amassed a succession of trophies performing regularly in European competition through the 1960’s to the present day. Many of those earlier European ties were though moved to the Heysel Stadium including the 1967 ECWC final against West Ham United.
It was not until the 1980’s that the home of Anderlecht became the modern football amphitheatre that it now is. Redevelopments began in 1983 and new stands arose of two tiers with cantilevered style roofs. This was amongst the first stadia in Europe to court the newer breed of business spectator. They install glass fronted private boxes or ‘business seats’ where fans could watch football from padded seats and be served hospitality.
Anderlecht’s rivals Club Brugge KV are older than Anderlecht having been founded in 1891 as RFC Brugeois. During the 1970’s they won a hatrick of championship titles and a place was gained in the 1978 European Cup final against Liverpool. Alas, unlike Anderlecht, they have not been able to secure a European title although they have always remained the larger of the Brugge sides compared to Cercle.
History aside as a football occasion demand for match tickets were huge. With Anderlecht in Europe and performing well the ‘sold out’ signs had gone up a few days before the tie. Outside the stadium however, as fans stood drinking all the finest Belgian beers, tickets were available at face price with €30 easily getting someone a ticket.
Club Brugge were backed by a travelling support of around 1,400 fans in a lower tier of the stadium and it was the visiting team who took the lead. Anderlecht however came back into things scoring through Praet before taking the lead by virtue of a strike from Deschacht. Captain Simons missed a penalty late on but the man who opened the scoring Vazquez brought things back equal by scoring a late equaliser for Club Brugge.
For many people there are far bigger games in Belgium amongst them the Anderlecht versus Standard Liege tie. Many see the Standard versus Charleroi tie as having more intensity. But the match up between Brugge and Anderlecht has taken on an esteem far greater than any other in more modern times; indeed, the game is perhaps regarded as even more important to Club Brugge than the inner city derby v Cercle Brugge.
But the fixture has become like many other modern day derby matches, less a clash of true inner city rivals and more a cliched stereotyped driven clash. Anderlecht are more often than not seen as the team who likes to play ‘technical and beautiful football’ watched by the upper classes while Brugge are the team of ‘regional hard workers’ and working classes.
In truth there was nothing much to shout about in this tie. The two clubs fans may not like one another much but the fact both clubs still tend to be the ones contesting the Belgian domestic silverware come the season end is what makes it so eagerly anticipated.
See a small selection of images here.