Thursday, January 31, 2008

VC Eendracht Aalst 2002-KSV Oudenaarde (27-01-2008)

It must have been in 1995 that (a much younger) Grondhopper wanted to visit Eendracht Aalst. I was spending a couple of weeks in Brussels by myself and made good use of that opportunity to see as many Belgian teams as possible. My brother and a friend were coming from the Netherlands, but the car broke down and we never made it to the game. Now, 13 years later, KSC Eendracht Aalst has become VC Eendracht Aalst 2002, after the club went bankrupt, and it no longer plays in the top flight of Belgian football but is trying to get out of the Derde Klasse A (Third Division A). Two things remain from the glorious years: a more than adequate stadium and a comparatively large crowd (for Belgian standards).

The Pierre Cornelisstadion has been the home of Eendracht Aalst since 1928, nine years after its foundation, and is situated “in the shadow of the Holy Heart Church”. It can hold 7.500 people, of which 3.500 seated, which makes it one of the bigger grounds in the lower Belgian divisions. We bought tickets for covered standing at 8 euro a piece and a hamburger with samourai sauce at the snack cart in front of the stadium for 3 euro.

With the hunger somewhat satisfied, we circled the stadium and joined a fairly bizarre mix of people; several of them preparing for the carnival festivities that make Aalst (in)famous within Belgium. While in the stadium, it was very hard to estimate how many people were In attendance that afternoon. This was partly because JB and I are no longer used to seeing more than 400 people in one day. ;-) The official website of Eendracht Aalst speaks of 2.800, which was also roughly what we had estimated (2.500-3.000).

Although most fans were very engaged in the game, I was a bit disappointed by the (lack of) atmosphere. There was very little singing and, when it occurred, it was short and not very original. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the game itself (I had forgotten my cell phone at home, and I normally make notes on it). Probably one of the most notable aspects was that Oudenaarde played in the away shirts of Aalst.

Overall, the game was poor and slow. While Aalst was much higher in the table than Oudenaarde, 4th and 11th respectively, I couldn’t really see the difference in quality. Both teams played slow and imprecise, lacking technique and accuracy. The visitors played quite rough in the beginning, which at least had the effect that the hosts created few real chances. This notwithstanding, they did score in the 25th minute, though I can’t recall how. 1-0 was also the half time score.

The Fan

The second half was much the same, but I got increasingly drawn into the game of the number 31 of Eendracht Aalst, local hero Roel Van Den Brande, a bold guy with the heart at the right place, who fights all game, and tries to play forward. While both teams mainly battled it out in the middle of the pitch, they did have a couple of chances. In the end, it would be again Aalst who scored: 2-0 in the 58th minute.

The remaining 30 minutes were as entertaining as the previous 60, with both teams still in balance but without too much effort to fundamentally change the score. The fans around us seemed mostly worried about the scores at the other pitches, as some direct competitors were losing points.

After Roel had gotten his deserved substitution – after having walked off the pitch before, when Oudenaarde’s number 31 was substituted – I lost most of my interest in the game and just used the last minutes to enjoy the fans around me. How can I put it: Aalst produces some remarkable characters! Anyway, it remained 2-0 and everyone happily ran to the bar.

It’s a shame that Eendracht Aalst went bankrupt, but to be fair, it doesn’t seem to have had any effect on the club or its supporters. It still breathes an air of professional football that most teams in the Second Division lack. In other words, if you are in the neighborhood, do visit the Pierre Cornelisstadion and enjoy the people around you!

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