The Belgian city of Antwerp has a relatively rich sporting history. The host city for the 1920 Summer Olympics was also European Capital of Sport in 2013, and will host a stage of the 2015 Tour de France.
It’s also home to ‘The Great Old’ – Royal Antwerp FC, Belgium’s first football club.
I remember Royal Antwerp being quite good when I was younger. Indeed, it was the last Belgian club to appear in a European final – the 1993 Cup Winners’ Cup final, which it lost to Parma of Italy 3-1 at Wembley.
As it is, The Great Old’s trophy cabinet is fairly bare; only four Belgian titles (the last in 1957) and two Belgian cups. Royal Antwerp now languishes in the middle of the Belgian Second Division.
The football at Royal Antwerp
Antwerp itself is a nice city – plenty of history, great shopping and lots of nice places to drink that amazing Belgian beer.
Royal Antwerp’s Bosuilstadion is in the east of the city and holds 16,649 when full. On the Saturday night that I went to its match with Dessel Sport from the surrounding Antwerp Province, there were barely a quarter of that – 3,649 – but the atmosphere was surprisingly good.
The Bosuilstadion is really old school, a real pleasure. All four sides are distinct, but the main stand is a concrete block with wooden benches. You enter through a huge domed tunnel and can take beer to your seat. You’ll need to buy tokens before you can purchase beer – €2 for a half pint of Maes. The staff all speak perfect English.
I paid €20 entry for the lively MM block, which is adjacent to the home end that The Great Old kick towards in the second half. It’s also where the best atmosphere is, with firecrackers, flares and non-stop singing.
And a lot of those songs are in English: “Come on you reds”, “We love you Antwerp, we do”, “Shall we sing a song for you?”, “Royal Antwerp FC, we’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen”, “Come on Antwerp” and best of all “Your support is fucking shit!”
Dessel did bring a few fans, who made little noise.
The game itself was a tale of two halves. It should have been 4-0 to the hosts by half-time but instead the game ended 2-1 to Dessel. I can just envisage Danny Mills pronouncing that Royal Antwerp lacked that little bit of quality when it mattered.
How to get to Royal Antwerp
From outside the wonderful Antwerpen Centraal station, catch the number 5 Metro/Tram from the Premetrostation Astrid in the direction of Wijnegem to Antwerp Stadion or Hermans stops. Then walk through the park to the gates.
It’s only 20 minutes or so journey. I got there way too early – they hadn’t even opened the gates!
Here’s the map of Bosuilstadion, Antwerp: