Monday, October 08, 2007

Royal FC Union La Camine – Royal FC de Liège (07-10-2007)

Although the groundhopweekend with my brother had been tiring, it had also awakened my hunger again. So, one week later the groundhopbug bit me again, and my friend J.B. and I were on our way to the German speaking part of Belgium, more particularly to the little town of Kelmis-La Calamine.

It was another bright and sunny day (roughly 18 degrees), which made us enjoy the scenic route even more. After a short drive of some 1.5 hours, we arrived in the town, and directly noticed the large number of cars with blue-red colors in them. It was clear, the away team of RFC de Liège would not be without its support. After a short walk we arrive at the Stade Prince Philippe, by now surrounded by away supporters. We line up for the ticket office and buy a ticket for 8 euro.

The Stade Prince Philippe is a posh name for one of the smallest stadiums I have ever visited. In fact, it was quite comparable to the Stade Hautcharage of the UN Käerjéng of last week. The main difference is that the canteen here is next to the covered stand, rather than above it (as at Käerjéng). Both inside and outside of the canteen it is full with red-blue supporters, as if it was their home game.

The atmosphere is very pleasant, people enjoy the trip and the sunny weather. The drinks are much more popular than the snacks – (German) sausages, fries, and cutlets – which is not just because of the weather (the snacks were quite disappointing).

We decide to walk to the other side of the pitch, so that we face the one stand of the stadium, which is completely taken over by the away supporters. I doubt the Stade Prince Philippe has ever had more atmosphere than on this day. I estimate that a good 500-600 people attended the game, of which only some 100 were home supporters! (The official website speaks of 1.200 spectators, but that seems a wild exaggeration).

On the program for this afternoon was a game between the number last, RFC Union La Calamine, and the number 1, RFC de Liège, of the Belgian Derde Divisie B (Third Division B). La Calamine has played below the national leagues until the mid-1990s, and got promoted to the Third Division in 2003. Its stadium reflects its long-term amateur status and can allegedly hold 4.000 people.

Already before kick-off the away supporters had created a real (if relaxed) football atmosphere with chants and songs. Some of the locals seemed quite amused by it, while a police force of ten kept an eye on the ‘ultras’ (even videoing them). The game started directly with some hard duels, as both teams had much to loose. To be fair, I couldn’t see the huge difference between the two clubs. Both teams were quite decent in terms of tactics and “functional technique” (dixit Johan Cruyff), but provided little if any good or intelligent pass. Consequently, chances were rather sporadic.

Indeed, it took until the 32nd minute for the first good attack. The visitors attacked, passed between a couple of players, pulled the ball back to a free player who finished it with a well-laced low shot in the corner: 0-1. The crowd celebrated it as a home goal, while the few actual home supporters seemed content that their boys had kept up so long. The rest of the first half was much the same, mediocre but committed struggle in midfield, with the only noteworthy offensive action a shot just wide of the La Calamine goal. Half-time score 0-1 and everyone seemed happy.

Having had my disappointing snack already during the game, I used the half-time to scout for “the fan(s)”, which were the two above, sporting a Che Guevara flag. ☺ The second half brought much more of the same. The hosts had two real chances, including one close header that was saved well, while the aspiring champions couldn’t create more than one (soft) chance.

Fortunately, the away fans kept singing and the sun kept shining, so J.B. and I kept enjoying our game. But although the level of play was higher than last Sunday at UN Käerjéng, it was still poor. I was particularly taken aback by the visitors, who are leading the division (La Camine still is without points after five games). Still, the away fans made clear that we should visit a home game of RFC de Liège soon.

[ no scoreboard, no final score pic ]

The final whistle was greeted by all in the stadium: the few neutrals (i.e. J.B., me and the police) because we were getting a bit bored by the play, the home fans, because their team hadn’t been slaughtered, and the away fans, because they don’t seem to expect much from their team. While walking back to the car, we heard the loyal fans celebrate their heroes for minutes.

I don’t think RFC Union La Calamine should be at the top of any groundhopper’s to-do list. I can only start to imagine how it is to watch a game there in normal Belgian weather conditions (i.e. wind and rain). But if you can visit them on a sunny day, by all means do. The scenic route to Kelmis-La Calamine alone will already be worth it!

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