The Hainaut Derby (via Newbury Park)

Checking the queue for tickets

I didn’t have many football plans for last weekend. I was toying with Newport County V Wealdstone in the FA Trophy first leg but I’ve never liked the gloryhunter tag. The long suffering Wealdstone fans who’ve been nomadic since their Lower Mead ground was sold underneath them deserve a bit of glory without any newcomers like me tagging onto it. I prefer the grit and grime of the Ryman League anyway and I’m hoping that the might stones can push off and at least get into the Conference South via the playoffs.

So whilst still wondering what I would do for football our Torquay United man in Holland (who you might remember from the earlier trip to Holland) made me an offer I couldn’t refuse of going to Belgium again to watch the Hainaut (Henegouwen) derby between UR La Louvière Centre and Royal Mouscron-Peruwelz in the Belgian 3rd division.

Madame Boudin’s Sausage Parlour

As you all know I don’t need that much encouragement to travel to Belgium, so off I went. I decided to take the Eurotunnel this time to save a bit of DFDS Seaways ball-ache. They may be £12.50 each way from Dover to Dunkerque at the moment but they don’t half dick about when loading and unloading. The Eurotunnel was seamless and swift in comparison although double the price but I thought it was worth it.

From the Eurotunnel terminal at Calais I swiftly made my way to Dunkerque before turning off at Grand Synthe for the free motorway to Lille. Then over the border to Tournai which is one of Belgium’s oldest cities and believe it or not the only Belgian city to have been under English rule between 1513 and 1519 when it was handed back to the French who then lost it to the Spaniards (first Charles V then the Duke of Parma). It was then returned to the French under the Treaty of Aachen before being a member of the Spanish Netherlands under the control of the Austrian Habsburgs.

The gigantic Canal boat lift at Strepy Thieu

From Tournai it’s a small matter of following the motorway down towards Mons (Twinned with Little Rock, Arkansas), passing the enourmous boat lift on the Canal centre at Strépy Thieu and then off the motorway into La Louvière. First impressions of the twon weren’t great. A dual carriageway in worse condition than the motorway from Lille, shabby red brick houses and a huge railway sidings next to a partially demolished factory and blast furnace.

So onto the football. A 2nd V 1st clash in the Belgian 3rd division. UR La Louvière Centre is a newly formed club from URS Centre and now a replacement for the last club to have played in La Louvière, R.A.A. Louviéroise, who went into liquidation in 2006 amid allegations of bribery and corruption with a Chinese businessman. They play at the 13,500 capacity Stade du Tivoli in La Louvière. They added the La Louvière to the team name for this season. Their opponents Royal Mouscron-Peruwelz are barely a year older in existence after they were formed out of the bankrupt Royal Excelsior Mouscron and Royal Racing Club Péruwelz.

A new Pope? The Green smoke in hommage to old club, R.A.A. Louviéroise

I got to the ground early. Parked up across the road from the stadium and found the ticket office. 15 euros! A bloody rip off. But I guess we were playing for the extra policing and security. I bought two tickets and waited for the Dutchman to turn up, who’d been cycling in Belgium and treating his testicles to cobblestones.

Turn up he did and we went into the Stade du Tivoli. For an athletics stadium it’s quite a decent one, tons more atmosphere than the bloody Don Valley. One stand looks like an Eastern Bloc all seater affair, the big all seater stand opposite looked quite new and quite impressive and then both the ends, although quite far from the pitch were both quite large with wooden supported roofs finished in a splendid varnish that under the lights gave it an orange glow rather like AS Monaco’s Stade Louis II. The layout was a bit like Eintracht Braunschweig’s stadium we visited back in December. The several large tower blocks behind the main stand gave the stadium a pleasing backdrop.

We took our place on the terraces and took in the pre-match atmosphere. Lots of smoke, Visage’s “Fade to Grey”, ACDC’s “Hell’s Bells” before the teams then ran out to the theme from Rocky.

Monsieur Le Loup. Qui a peur? Seulement les cochonettes dans la maison?

I had thought before the game that the look and feel of watching football in the French speaking part of Belgium wouldn’t be as good as some of the football I’ve seen in the Flemish parts. But to be honest apart from the language there isn’t much difference. They certainly don’t look french and all seemed to be decent, down to the earth types who liked a beer, a burger or a boudin and good honest football.

Graham Norton celebrates the Royal Mouscron-Peruwelz equaliser

As for the game itself. It was a bit poor, your typical derby game. Short on quality, plenty of niggle and general breaking down of play. Mouscron looked like the bigger and better quality team but La Louvière were quicker but a little lacking in quality. Around 4,000 turned up for the match. About 2,000 up on the usual home attendances.

A free kick in the closing minutes.

I drove straight back the England after the match, not before I did a dodgy deal with the Dutchman for two big jars of Dutch Pindakaas. British Sea Power on full whack kept me awake, focused and sharp on the journey back. A small bit of DFDS-esque dicking around slightly spoiled the trip back on the Eurotunnel and I collasped into my bed in west London at 3am.

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