Monday, September 04, 2006

Groundhop Weekend 25-27 February 2006

Man, oh man, what a bizarre weekend this was. It was C-O-L-D!!! And never before have I seen such snow storms in the Low Countries. But this all notwithstanding, I have had a historic groundhop experience this weekend.

Hannover Scorpions - Iserlohn Roosters (25-02-2005)

Friday afternoon I was picked up at Schiphol by my brother T.M. and his friend SdB. At the schedule for that evening, a game between the Hannover Scorpions and the Iserlohn Roosters in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German Ice Hockey League, DEL). Having circumvented the traffic jams in both the Dutch Randstad and the German Ruhrgebiet we arrived more than an hour before the game at the beautiful, brand new TUI Arena. For ice hockey games the stadium can hold 10.600 spectators, which makes it one of the larger halls in Europe. This game was attended by some 6.000, among which surprisingly many women and girls. The atmosphere was traditionally good, as always with sports events in Germany. The hockey itself was a lot less impressive, particularly the home team was poor. After 6 minutes they were 0-2 down and they never had a chance at getting back. The end result of 2-6 for the regional rivals was therefore more than deserved, despite the fact that Iserlohn didn’t play that fantastic either.

After a short night in a Formule 1 hotel we decided to be ambitious and drive to Luxemburg to see an afternoon cup game between Progres Nierderkorn and Dudelange, and than to continue to France to see an evening game of Raon L'Etap in the French Championnat National. During the drive it regularly snowed, while the environment was covered with a thick layer of snow of the past days. After a long drive we arrived some 40 minutes before kick-off at the Stade Jos Haupert, where the first team was practising at a small pitch. After inspection of the empty stadium and the snowed-under pitch, we decided to also skip the French game and try to play it safe. And thus we drove at a relaxed speed to Sint-Truiden in Belgian Limburg.

K. Sint-Truiden VV - KAA Gent (26-02-2005)

After a quick stop at Frituur Juliette we drove to the stadium Staaien to see whether we could also buy tickets without a Fancard. The security was very strict: Fancard, identity card, or… just state your name. J Having bought the ticket, we spent the last 60 minutes before the game in the Cafe Stadion watching the game Hertha BSC-HSV.

It was ice cold in the “Hell of Staaien” (as is the nickname of the stadium), but fortunately the game was less boring than the last time I was here. This was particularly because of the performance of AA Gent, who already within minutes scored 0-1. After that the visitors remained the better team, but this was also because the home team was extremely poor. Benji de Keulenaar is the best player (he left the team after that season), but obviously he cannot do it all alone. In the end “the buffalo’s” won 0-2 and we went back to Antwerp with frozen toes.

KV Kortrijk - Excelsior Virton (26-02-2006)

Having slept in, and having enjoyed a good cup of coffee, we left well-prepared for a double-pack on Sunday. The first game of the day was KV Kortrijk against Excelsior Virton, two mid-table teams in the Belgian Tweede Klasse (second division). We knew it was going to be cold again, but when we got into a genuine snow storm just after Ghent, we started to worry about whether the game would be called off. Fortunately the snow storm turned out to have been very local; it hadn’t even snowed in Kortrijk.

At 14.15 we arrived at the ruinous Guldensporenstadion of KV Kortrijk. We saw almost none, except for a bus with green-white supporters. They turned out to be Walloons from Virton, so we decided to share Tribune 4 with the ca. 25 green-white away fans. All in all there were not even 500 spectators in the freezing stadium. A shame, as the game wasn’t bed at all. After 5 minutes Virton was 0-1 up and 5 minutes later it was already 1-1That was also the half time score, but in between there had been some nice football, particularly by Virton. In the second half both teams got tired and the play of Virton especially deteriorated rapidly. Around 15 minutes before the end of the game the away team faltered, having one player sent off and getting two goals after individual mistakes. End result: 3-1 for KV Kortrijk in this ‘six-points game’.

LOSC -- Stade Rennais (26-02-2006)

Direct after the end of the game of KV Kortrijk we got into our car and drove to Lille to catch our second game of the day one hour later. The last time I went to a game of LOSC they played in the center of town. This season, possibly because of the rebuilding of the own stadium, LOSC played at the Stade Metropole, a typical athletics stadium. L

I will keep it very short: cold, COLD, C-O-L-D!!! Jezus H. Christ, we were cold! And a 0-0 game at that?! This notwithstanding, I recommend all groundhoppers a trip to Lille: the football is of a good level, the atmosphere is good, and the merguez americaine greasy. But do go when the weather is a bit better!

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