So much importance in football is placed on the foundations of a club – established in 1889 or ‘founded in 1903’.

Like when we were are born as people – our birthdate is a cause for celebration and a source of great pride.

In 1926, the Royal Belgian Football Association introduced matricule numbers for football clubs – effectively a sign of enrollment with those who govern football. The system is the revered inventory of registration and hierarchy in Belgian football.

The matricule system is used to tell the clubs apart – whom came before who and when. It was introduced so that existing clubs could be assigned a matriculation number by order of registration with the Royal Belgian Football Association.

Belgian clubs, especially those with very low numbers, consider their matricule number as being central to their heritage and club culture. This is the case at Royal Antwerp where the ‘1’ features prominently in the club logo and name.

Royal Charleroi Sporting Club, or often just ‘Sporting Charleroi’ are based in the city of Charleroi, in the Belgian province of Hainaut.

Founded in 1904 they received the matricule n°22 from the Belgian FA.

While being number 22 might not be much to shout about, it means a lot to those who follow the club as in 2024 the club celebrates 120 years as a Belgian football club.

The city of Charleroi itself has a number of royal traditions.

During the Spanish Netherlands the fortification of Charnoy was renamed Charle-roi (King Charles) in 1666. The locality was named in honor of King Charles II of Spain and it roughly is the city of Charleroi we now know today.

Likewise the Royal in the club name of Charleroi effectively makes reference to the Belgian King being the ‘honorary president’ and the club having a royal charter and seal of approval.

Once approved, a team is also given permission to put a royal crown on their badge as RSC Charleroi use in its logo. And, while the club is normally referred to as the Zebras – with the black and white stripes displayed on the badge – it is common to see the symbol of a lion associated with the club.

The coat of Royal arms of Belgium bears a lion known as Leo Belgicus and its been used a lot by the club and its fans through the years as the club crest has developed. Likewise the zebra is used a lot by both the club and its fans – the animal previous appearing on the club logo.

Just as many modernists and nostalgia aficionados will disagree over the use or non use of the Royal crest – most official documents and the club website refers to Charleroi as ‘Sporting‘ – so the home of RSC Charleroi has developed over the years.

The sea change came with the approach of UEFA Euro 2000.

Like many of the coal mines that closed in the province of Hainaut the current Stade du Pays de Charleroi remains a remarkably well preserved testimony of social and stadium engineering.

While the original club home of the Stade du Mambourg was officially buried on 24th May 1999 (60 years after its opening in 1939) the years since have seen stands pulled down, others brushed up and the stadium capacity drastically cut from 30,000 to 15,000.

The famous but controversial third tier from Euro 2000 has now gone.

However, such is the feel to the ground lovers of both the nostalgic and modernist will find something to their liking in one way or another in the football stadium.

That said, it is likely that 10 years from now the current Stade du Pays de Charleroi will disappear.

Like much of the city a new urban roadmap is planned.

Under the current moniker of the ‘Zebra-arena’, a plan has been revealed to create a new stadium as the city redevelops the most historic areas of Charleroi by 2035.

Again the plan is to build on previous aspects of the regions social history – in this case disused steelworks and legacy mining developments will be where the stadium takes root.

The multi-functional stadium will have an innovative roof design and the current plan is for the ‘Zebra Arena’ to be ready for the start of the 2026-27 season.