Monday, 25 January 2010

Too many words about a 3rd Division Belgian football match I went too - could this be any more boring

Konnklijk Diegem Sport - Royal Union Saint Gilloise
Belgian 3B Division

Thankfully my job involves a bit of European travelling which means I can frequently indulge in some European football action with my employers picking up the tab, however my recent one night trip to Brussels looked like it was heading towards a dismal night in an Ibis with no football action. That was until 3 days before I left I found the re-arranged fixture of Konnklijk Diegem Sport v Royal Union Saint Gilloise, which caused me more excitement than it probably should have done.

My obsession with attending this match was undoubtedly to the detriment of my work, but then I work for the public sector and no one cares really. I spent plenty of time on the net trying to work out the location of the ground, how to get the train there, sending emails to the club hoping they'd help and concocting various lies to avoid the usual networking dinner that follows these type of meetings. After bringing my meeting in Brussels to an unexpectedly early conclusion that none of the attendees had anticipated I am able to get on my way to the big match and take the train to Diegem.

Now, the first rule of queuing is never switch to another queue which seems to be moving faster, this will lead to disaster. Sadly for me I disregard this rule and then found myself in a torturously slow queue, led by a group of women who spent 20 minutes trying to buy a train ticket - quite why this procedure should be so sodding difficult I have no idea, where were they going - Saturn? Arse. So I missed the first train to Diegem and had to wait around on the dreary platform of Brussels Nord for the next one, causing severe disruption to me pre match beer and food plans.

My usual strategy for finding a football ground in unfamiliar areas is to scour my mode of transport to the game for a local fan and then follow them to the ground, this worked a treat when I saw RUSG in October and hasn’t let me down previously. Until now. On disembarking the train I noticed a couple sporting RUSG scarves, much more appropriate attire for a 3rd Division Derby than my work suit, and making them the ideal to follow to the ground - even though I was armed with a map. They sat off to the ground, and I follow on maintaining a safe distance. I then decide that I know where I’m going and then head off ahead of them. I stride on ahead, I look around and they've turned around and gone the other way, I stride on and then get nervous. They're Belgian surely they know more about this part of town than me. I turn back and head back towards where I've just come from, they turn around - they know they're being followed - this isn’t going well. I stop and stare at the map, I now think I know where I’m going, they walk past me, we both know that we are going to the same place but an inbuilt fear of strangers mean we don’t communicate and help each other. I've sussed it; I now know where the ground is and walk on, walking past them and marching on apace. I ask an old lady where the ground is and through shouting, pointing and the international language of sign I'm able to deduce that the ground is in the park and set off down a dusty track safe in the knowledge the ground is at the end. The young couple take a wrong turn. Suckers! I eventually find the ground, pay my bargain 10 Euro entrance and head straight to the clubhouse for a well deserved beer. They turn up about 10 minutes later. Ha!

For some reason many Belgian bar staff can’t be trusted to handle cash directly, at various football matches and clubs I’ve been to you have to purchase tickets before partaking in a beverage. I purchase my beer tokens from a very trustworthy old couple and make my way to the bar and order a Jupiler Blue. Now, please learn from my mistakes and don’t drink this, I'm not sure what the "blue" part is but I do fear it was anti-freeze. Just say no kids. The bar area was already populated seemingly entirely by RUSG fans who had made the short trip from south Brussels to the small town of Diegem, about 8 miles outside of central Brussels.

The Gemeentelijk Sportstadion, home of Diegem is small and totally different to the grand Stade Joseph Marien that I previously seen RUSG play in. The main stand could hold around 600 people and there was a small covered section on the opposite side. Along the 2 sides were sections of small terracing, mostly with stones covering the steps and behind the goals 2 large grassed areas. The setting for the game was very picturesque and a change from the soulless out of town monotony of most UK grounds, with a church spire in the background, a small lake in the expanse of parkland surrounding the ground, flocks of birds from the nearby park swooping over the game on regular occasion, OK the jumbo jets that flew very closely overhead every 30 seconds were not so easy on the eye but made for an unusual backdrop.

By the time the match kicks off it seems the ground is populated solely by RUSG fans decked out in the club colours of yellow and blue, this includes a number of English folk, who I had previously seen at RUSG games, and the Union Bhoys gathered behind their banner. Diegem to have some fans it seems, with around 4 pensioners gathered around a flag with "M-Side Diegem" written on it. To be honest I don’t think M-Side and going to be appearing on Danny "proper nawty" Dyers Football Factories anytime soon. As the match progress however M-Side do get a bit irate at numerous offside decisions and penalty appeals going against them. Medics circle anxiously.

M-Side

The game is played at a slow pace with both teams taking it in turns to defend woefully from set pieces and give the other team chances which they can’t capitalise from. The game drifts on and I indulge in one of my favourite past times in foreign countries of looking for badly translated adverts/product names etc. Sadly there isn’t a lot to go on; the best I could do being one advert that had the bemusing strap line of “Born to Party. Forced to win" and another offering "slaap and relaxcomfort".

The bad defending/bad miss routine continues and the boredom interrupted by the Diegem fans mocking the RUSGs Italian manager Roberto Landi who seemingly communicated with his players in Italian. One tactical instruction is met with cries of "mamma mia" and "hey, Lasange" from the terraces behind him.

Half time approaches and I decide to beat the rush and sample the half time sausages on offer, I go for the black sausage which tastes initially like black pudding but by the end tastes disgusting - beer is required to rinse the taste out of my mouth. I decide to avoid the Jupiler Blue and go for the Stella this time, sadly some Barmaid instigated confusion ends up with me sipping a tiny amount of beer from an elderly gentlemen’s glass. Entirely not my fault, and my attempts at apologies are met the bloke calling me a "doofa" - I'm not entirely sure what a "doofa” is but refute the allegation! The gentleman returns to his group of friends muttering to himself and I exit the bar fearful of reprisals from M-Side.

The 2nd half starts with Diegem on top, although RUSG have a chance to take the lead on the hour, however 2 minutes later Diegem took a deserved lead through Dupont who finally converts one of the many set piece based chances and heads home and the 100 or so Diegem fans get mildly excited and I decide to go to the bar, successfully avoiding being called a "doofa" again. 15 minutes later Yterbrouck scores for Diegem after some hesitant defending and apart from a red card just before the end for a Diegem player not a lot happens. RUSG trudge off to be shouted at in a language they don’t understand and M Side go home happy as their side go to the top of the league.

I head back to train station confident in my ability to find the way without the need to stalk someone this time. The night ends with the young couple and I waiting next to each other to get off the train, knowing nods are exchanged and we both make our separate ways into the Brussels night. Match highlights can be found here and render my description of the ground and match largely pointless as you can see it for yourself.

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