Friday, September 22, 2006

FCN Sint-Niklaas – SWI Harelbeke (03-09-2006)

Inspired by the OHL-Malinwa game of Wednesday, my friend A.H. and I decided to make another groundhop on Sunday: KVSK United-OHL. We met at Antwerp Central Station where we boarded the train for Lommel. Both excited about the upcoming game, I checked the local newspaper to see the scores of Saturday’s games in Belgium’s second division, when, to our great shock, we noticed that the game had been played on Saturday (incidentally, OHL won 1-2). After a short disappointment, we checked the schedule for today and decided that the only game we could still make was that between FC Nieuwkerken Sint-Niklaas against SWI Harelbeke in the Derde Klasse A (third division A).

Having bought a new train ticket, we entered the train to Sint-Niklaas, where we arrived some 20 minutes later. We asked several people for directions to the stadium, but to no avail. Only after a girl in a hotel has consulted her friend, we were on our way to the stadium… unfortunately, that of RS Waasland, the other team in Sint-Niklaas, playing in the second division (and away that day). After another consultation in a bar, we played it safe and called a cab, which brought us outside of the town of Sint-Niklaas, and inside the village of Nieuwkerken. At the Stedelijk Sportcentrum Meesterstraat we bought a nice ticket for the completely new main stand for 10 euro. Although it was only 15 minutes before kick-off, there were no players on the pitch.

Fortunately, there were several hundred people in the stadium, mainly in the cantina and restaurant (!); we headed for the one small snack stand, where we bought the traditional fast food of Belgian football: hamburger and braadworst (sausage). I guess there were some 500 people in the new but small stadium, some with shawls of the home team and one ‘hooligan’ with a flag.

While still admiring the closeness to the pitch, which reminded me of my youth when I would support the first team of my club (the Velpse Voetbal- en Athletiekvereniging Olympia, VVO), the home team scored 1-0 with a beautiful flying header by the number 10, whose fluoride green shoes indicated his (self-believed) star status. After the goal FCN Sint-Niklaas remained the better team, but few chances would emerge from their play. Harelbeke has a very young team and missed quality. Still, hard work and sloppy play by Sint-Niklaas kept them in the game till some 10 minutes before the end of the game the referee gave the home team a penalty which none around us could explain. I suspect a player of Sint-Niklaas was pushed, but I couldn’t see it. Belfassi scored the 2-0 and that was also the final result.

The nice thing about going to see third division games in
Belgium is that afterwards the busses are not crowded. So, when we boarded the bus in front of the stadium, 10 minutes after the end of the game, we were the only ones. And, by the time we returned to the station of Sint-Niklaas, it seemed like only we knew there had been a football game in town. Next time we visit, it will be RS Waasland.

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