The narrow-minded view of Belgium is that there’s not much more to it than beer and chocolate. I would guard against that view, but if you do want beer and chocolate, then the two meet in great quality and wonderful abundance in Bruges, one of Europe’s most special cities.
Bruges, and more specifically the 30,000-seater Jan Breydel Stadion, is home to two football teams: Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge.
The brief history of Club Brugge
Belgium is a three-language country; French (Walloon), Flemish and German. And so it was that RFC Brugeois became Club Brugge Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging (Royal Bruges Football Club) – or Club Brugge KV for short – in 1972. I have read that the name of the stadium was changed from Olympiastadion to Jan Breydel Stadion – named after a 14th Century local hero – in order to qualify for subsidies from the Flanders government.
It was in the 1970s that the club enjoyed its heyday, losing both the Uefa and European Cup finals to Bob Paisley’s great Liverpool side in that decade. Club Brugge has been Belgian champions 13 times – behind only Brussels rivals Anderlecht in terms of titles.
Great players include Jan Ceulemans, Robbie Rensenbrink, Daniel Amokachi, Jean-Pierre Papin, Lorenzo Staelens, the Van Der Elst brothers and Aussie legend Frank Farina.
The Club Brugge fan experience
I went to a Flemish v Walloon match: Club Brugge versus Standard Liege (pronounced ‘Stondar’, by the way), which should have been tasty. The seats I got were open to the elements, little more than plastic moulded into concrete, for around €18.
Luckily, the weather was good. Which is more than could be said for the match. Standard lost a man early to a red card after just ten minutes – Eyong Enoh on his debut – goaded by the crowd.
The crowd was pretty lively and it was an easy 3-0 for the home team, which included two penalties for Timmy Simons and a second red late on for Bruges. Standard brought decent numbers from the south in red and white but were understandably deflated through the early red and what that almost inevitably meant for Standard’s prospects.
And if you’re in your pre-match beer, I recommend Bruges’ Half Moon Brewery – De Halve Maan.
How to get to Club Brugge
The Jan Breydel Stadion is 3.5kms west of the historic city centre of Bruges. Take the no. 5 or 15 bus from the railway station in the direction of Sint-Andries. It’s a 15-minute ride to Sint-Andries and then a five-minute walk to the ground.
You can buy tickets from Club Brugge’s English language website.