Tuesday, August 07, 2007

RCS Charleroi – KSV Roeselare (04-08-2007)

Whenever my English mate L.M. comes to visit me, I take him to a Belgian game. As the new season of the Eerste Klasse (First Division) had started on Friday, with an undeserved victory of lucky Anderlecht at KV Mechelen, we decided to go and see one of three Eerste Klasse teams I haven’t seen yet: Royal Charleroi Sporting Club, the biggest team of Wallonie’s biggest city.

We took the train to Leuven where we were met by J.B. After a scenic route we arrived in Charleroi four hours before kick-off. Charleroi counts over 200.000 people in the city itself and some 500.000 in the urban area around. While we knew that it is not the most beautiful city -- it is an old mining town in the infamous Le Pays Noir (the black land) area – we had never expected it to be so grim and uneventful. There is truly nothing to do! Although, you might want to drop in at the Greek snack bar that advertises a “gyros géante”. Take them on their word, as it is huge! This is what the medium one looked like!

At about 19.00 we returned to the stadium to get our tickets and visit the fan shop. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell pennants (which seems to be a trend), so I was left without any souvenir. We decided to buy a ticket for Tribune 3, the long side that was still in the hot sun. For 19 euro we had a great seat at the middle of the pitch. As I had eaten only half of the pita, I was able to squeeze a Mexicano with Andalousse sauce in before taking our place.

Despite (or because?) the great weather (31 C) the stadium was quite empty. The Stade du Pays de Charleroi was renovated in 1999 to accommodate the European Championship of 2000 and can now host 25.000 people. For this game, only 8.158 turned up, including some 50 people who had made the 140 km journey from Roeselare in West Flanders.

The game started explosively: within 1 minute Sporting had scored 1-0! What a start to the new season! Unfortunately, after that the game deteriorated rapidly. Roeselare showed that it will be a main contender for relegation with many poor passes and uninventive play. Charleroi didn’t impress either, although they have more skill.

I was most impressed by two players of Roeselare: French central defender Jonathan Joseph-Augustin and Bosnian defender Davir Mirvic (who played more like a defending midfielder). The most remarkable player on the pitch was Roeselare’s Belgian-Turkish striker Izzet Akgül, who joined this summer from… Sporting Charleroi! Clearly, the home supporters had not forgiven him this move, as they were whistling and taunting him during the whole game. Anyway, half time score was 1-0! Time to get something to drink.

The second half started where the first one had left off, with poor football and few chances. Roeselare got a bit better in the game without becoming really threatening. But then, in the 65th minute, the ball falls to Akgül, who plays himself free and scores professionally: 1-1. This set off a spat of insults from the home fans, which led the referee to stop the game for a couple of minutes.

After the game restarted the home team pushed more for a victory. However, it mainly showed its incompetence. Roeselare didn’t have too much problems to keep their goal clean and didn’t press much forward anymore. 1-1 was what they got and it must have been one point more than they had expected.

All in all it was a decent groundhop, although this was mainly so because of the great weather. The game itself was poor, even for Belgian sub-top standards, and I was not that impressed by the atmosphere in the stadium. Sporting is one of the few Belgian teams with a solid following, but if this is what counts as "une toute grosse ambiance", at the Stade du Paus de Charleroi, as the official website claimed afterwards, they are having a problem.

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