John and I have been saying since roughly 51 weeks ago that we were going to go and watch some football while we were in Belgium. We finally got around to it yesterday, and saw Anderlecht vs Beerschot. Anderlecht are the giants of Belgian football. Beerschot, whose nickname is ‘the Rats of Kiel’, were formed from the merger of Beerschot and Germinal Ekeren, and the only reason for that sentence being there is so I can enjoy Flemish names again. The game was fairly routine in the first half, with Anderlecht taking a comfortable lead – great for the fan, not so for the neutral. But it came alive in the second half with Beerschot equalising, the scorer of the second goal then going postal and getting two yellow cards in the space of a minute right after putting away his penalty. For about ten minutes it was very tense, with the few hundred extremely noisy Antwerpers in the away section believing that they might just come away with a point. Then Anderlecht’s Gillet popped up in the 88th minute, put away a third headed set piece for Anderlecht. A nervy two or three minutes of injury time later and it was over.
It was the first game of football I’d been to in a long time, and lots of things were familiar. The general mockery by home fans of the away team’s goalkeeper was done in precisely the same way, with a rising ‘wwooooooooo’ followed by ‘ENCULÉ!!!’ as he took a goal kick. At English grounds it’s “YOU’RE SHIT!!!” or worse. The goalie in this case went by the excellent name of Stijn Stijnem, which is pronounced ‘Stain Stainem’. The Anderlecht fans booed his every touch throughout; I didn’t find out why they had taken so strongly agijnst him. I was stupidly pleased that Gillet scored two goals, since he was the only Anderlecht player I’d heard of, and I’d had him in a Championship manager team once. It was great being on terracing again – although Anderlecht are going to replace it. There was a frankly baffling advert flashing on the video hoardings around the pitch, saying: “You gave us your shirt / You gave us your skin / You wrote us a song / Not lend us your voice”. And the game was refresingly free of the hype and aggro of English football, plus it was only €11 to get in.
But my favourite thing was parked just outside the Stade Constant Vanden Stock. It was the usual dodgy looking food van, surrounded by men stuffed into their replica shirts, who were handing over their money and walking away with little polystyrene trays….. of snails.