Every now and again you attend a football match at a new stadium and you come away thinking that you’ll never want to watch a game of football anywhere else, which I’m not ashamed to say happened to me in Belgium on a Saturday night back in July
I paid a visit to Belgium to watch a couple of matches. I was initially hoping to get a couple of extra games on friday night and Saturday morning but by the time I decided to go to Belgium tickets had sold out for the match between newly promoted Oud-Heverlee Leuven V Anderlecht so I decided just to see KV Mechelen V Sint Truidense VV on Saturday night and Rupel Boom V FCV Dender on Sunday.
So to Mechelen which is slap bang between Brussels and Antwerp. I paid 14 Euros for my terrace ticket on the very good ticketingonline.be website where you can buy tickets online for every Belgian First Division club and printed out my voucher which I then exchanged for a ticket at the stadium.
YR KV Mechelen (or Yellow Red Koninklijke Voetbalclub Mechelen) are the biggest team in Mechelen and they’ve won the Belgian League 4 times and the Belgian Cup once in 1987 which they then followed up with a shock win in the 1988 Cup Winner’s Cup final, beating Ajax 1-0 in Strasbourg. Ajax had Danny Blind sent off quite early and then brought on a very youthful Dennis Bergkamp. After that they went on to beat PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Super Cup and won the Belgian league but since then they’ve floundered a bit. They’re also known by their old French name of FC Mallinois which has now been changed from French to a Belgian-African hybrid of Malinwa!
The Stadium is a tight compact affair with a strange executive box end which slightly resembles Odsal stadium in Bradford, the other end is like the Wendy House end at Brentford with seating on top and terracing below. The executive box end in particular is built within the strict confines of a small space between the ground and a graveyard The sides are made up of the main popside which hosts the most vocal support and then opposite is the main stand or the Hoofdtribune which has a terraced area in front of the seating. The stadium is called “Achter de Kazerne” or “Behind the barracks” because there was an army barracks there in the past. It’s quite nearby to the local prison. At the moment KV Mechelen have taken sponsorship to name it the Argosstadion after an oil company rather than a catalogue shop of hopes and dreams.
That Saturday’s match with Sint Truidense was the first game of the season and 10,500 turned up in a stadium that holds 13,213. I have to say that their fans make a shitload of noise. But it’s more in an English way than a German way. They sing some set songs but it’s far more spontaneous then what usually happens in Germany where you get the impression that they’ve come to sing orchestrated songs rather than watch the football. They also sing a fair few songs in English and start off the game with a Flemish Marching Band and then the same band stay on the pitch to play the percussion which helps to pad out the whole place singing “You’ll never walk alone”. Quite impressive.
The most impressive thing is the amount of colour. Yellow and Red Stripes with black shorts and socks is striking enough but when everybody (and I mean everybody) wearings something yellow and red then it’s quite some sight. I saw their kit in a Subbuteo Catalogue back in the mid 1980s which was my bible for a while and it always impressed me.
The football itself was pretty good. A bit like Dutch football but a bit more direct but with the same lack of class in the final third. But more than watchable all the same.
KV won the game 2-1 with an impressive delicate lob from giant Bosnian centre half Boris “Kung Fu” Pandza and a deflected late winner from Frenchman Julien Goruis after Sint Truiden had equalised with a fine left footed strike into the top corner from Gregory Dufer.
All in all a very impressive place to watch football. I doubt whether it will be bettered this season.
To view complete Photo Gallery please go here :