Friday, December 29, 2006

SK Ronse Renaix – RC Waregem (17-12-2006)

As I wanted to finish this top groundhopping year in style, I decided to see two more games with my grounhop-buddies: both between the number last and second from bottom in the first division. On Sunday 17 December the Japanese Übergroundhopper A.H. joined me for a trip to the language border of Belgium: Ronse-Renaix. We met at Ghent Sint-Pieter railway station to take the (two-hourly) train to Ronse, where we arrived hours before the game. It was a cold but clear winter day and we spent a couple of hours walking through the picturesque Flemish town, enjoying the Christmas atmosphere (including a Christmas stall with live animals, see below), and buying some family gifts at the Christmas market.

Some 30 minutes before the start of the game we arrived at the Stade O Crucke Stadion (underscoring the bilingual character of the club). We bought a ticket for the Tribune A-B-D-E at 15 euro a piece at the wooden “ticket office” and made our way to the cantina in the hope to find some food. Unfortunately, this must be the only stadium in Belgium that does not sell any snacks, not even the obligatory sausages and hamburgers! A bad start!

Somewhat hungry we took a place at the main stand and prepared ourselves mentally for a game between the numbers 17 and 18 of the Belgian Tweede Klasse. I guess that there were some 300 people in the stadium. The setting was as expected: amateurism everywhere. We were particularly charmed by the groundsman, whom we learned from cheering around us was called Cyrille, who kept the official balls in a laundry basket.

Other interesting aspects of the SK Ronse ground were the fact that the pitch was not level, but rather hyperbolic, the small cement building (with the name of main sponsor Bocova on it) with the police officers in it (who never came out), and the “Kantien” for the away supporters, which was basic, to say the least. All in all, a unique setting.



Now to the game itself. You might be surprised to read that the game was not of the highest quality. In fact, the pace was very low and the passing poor. The teams were equal in terms of quality and performance and neither had more than two decent players. Still, it was quite entertaining to watch. And it was made even more rewarding by the commentary of the fans behind us; clearly locals and lifelong SK Ronse supporters. One in particular had us laughing over an over again, with his ironic comments on players, referee, and everything else. All in good spirit (so lacking at the stands of many big teams). Anyway, this was all appreciated the more as the half time score was 0-0 and there was no reason it should have been anything different.

At half time we escaped the stadium to visit the Frituur (snack bar) next door, which turned out to be closed… only for this short period of two weeks! Even more hungry and somewhat frozen we returned to the stand, made sure we sat again in front of the funny guy, and dived into the second half. This period the game did bring a winner, i.e. the home team, who scored twice, quite late in the game, to get a deserved 2-0 home victory against their main rival. This even satisfied our favorite fan behind us, and so we could all happily leave the stadium and get back to the winter cold.

We were just in time to get the train back to Ghent, which saved us a two hour wait, where A.H. and I parted ways. A. caught the train back to Leuven, whereas I decided to take a later train and sample some local food establishments in Ghent instead. Around 19.30 I arrived back in Antwerp, happy to have seen the battle of the bottom two of the Belgian Second Division

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