Thursday, July 31, 2008

Racing Waregem – Torhout 1992 KM (25-07-2008)

Hopping with P.S. means being reliant upon Belgian public transport, as neither of us owns a car. Normally this is not too bad, as long as we don’t travel too far away from ‘t Stad (Antwerp). This time we took a risk, going all the way to the outer boundaries of East Flanders, to Waregem. Unfortunately, the trip started badly, as our train had a 30 minutes delay, which meant we missed our connection in Ghent. In the end, we arrived in Waregem 30 minutes before kick-off. Despite warnings from everyone we asked for directions, that “Nieuwenhoven”, the area of the stadium, was much too far to walk, we set off on foot anyway. However, after 10 minutes we gave up, called a taxi, and were driven to the ground of Racing Waregem (an almost 10 minute drive, thus a good call). Consequently, we arrived just in time for kick-off, given that there were also no lines in front of the ticket-office (where we bought a general ticket for 4 euro).

De Rassing, as the club is called locally, is not very well-known; not even in Waregem itself, as even the taxi driver had never been to the stadium. It is the second team of this town, which has always lived in the shadow of KSV Waregem (now SV Zulte-Waregem). Racing Waregem plays its games in the Derde Klasse A (Third Division A) in its Mirakelstadion (Miracle Stadium), which has two small covered stands, of which the one below is the main stand, and can hold 2.960 people.

However, as the pitch was prepared for the new season, this friendly against Torhout 1992 KM, a team from the Vierde Klasse A (Fourth Division A), was played at the pitch behind the main ground. Some 100 people attended the game, including some 40 from Torhout, less than 40 km away; seemingly mostly people closely tied to the (players of the) two clubs. It seemed that it was not an official game, as they played without linesmen!

The game was clearly meant as a practice match, as there was a lot of coaching at the pitch and both teams played at times overly well-prepared attacks. I thought Torhout had the better of the play, although Waregem had two semi-chances. In the 18th minute the number 16 tried to curl the ball in the far corner, but was denied by a spectacular, if not too difficult, safe of the goalie. Ten minutes later the same player shot dry in the low left corner, but saw his shot again stopped by the goalie.

Unfortunately, the number 16 was not just the most talented player of De Rassing, he was also the most annoying. In the 38th minute he poked an opponent in the face, who reacted with a hit. After that, a true brawl broke out, in which the opponent (with a bloody nose now) got his revenge, by decking the number 16, before both were sent off. However, this was not enough for the enraged Torhout player, who directly after the red card, and in front of the referee, decked the number 16 yet again.

This almost led to a fight among the supporters, who later all agreed that it was all the fault of the referee. Obviously, the guy who had at least twice put his fist in the face of another player couldn’t be blamed. After all, as the away fans endearingly said, “he is Italian”. So, after a stop of almost 10 minutes the game restarted and everyone seemed to have learned his lesson, as nothing bad (or good) happened in the remaining minutes. Half time score: 0-0.

After another cola light and bag of crisps – they didn’t have any real snacks! – we returned to the pitch for the second half. Fortunately, everyone had calmed down on and off the pitch; leaving aside a vicious revenge for an earlier attack by a Torhout striker. This might have been partly the effect of the radical substitution policy of the Waregem coach, who had replaced almost his whole team at half time (the first-half team would be running around the stadium for the duration of the whole second half). Most remarkable, however, was that both teams started the second half again with 11 men each (!); as if the two red cards had never happened.

Although the game was now relatively fair, it remained also largely uneventful. There were almost no shots at goal. It was therefore not a big surprise that the first goal would be scored by a penalty, after an obvious push in the box. The 0-1 was not even undeserved.

Clearly a loss against a team from a division lower was too much for the ego of the home squad, even if they were the second picking, so they started to pressure increasingly, looking for at least an equalizer. And it also came, in the 80th minute, in good old Gerd Müller style. The striker had his ass toward the goal, turned, had his shot deflected by the defender, but it nevertheless crawled in. 1974 all over again! As the goal before it, the 1-1 hardly aroused enthusiasm of the fans; it seemed that only the Rassing players applauded.

In summary, this was a remarkable game. It was the first time I saw a game with no linesmen (even when I was 6 we had two – admittedly biased – linesmen). And it was the first time I saw a player deck the same player twice; once after receiving the red card and in full view of the referee. I’m curious how long he will be suspended. I would think a minimum of 4-6 months could be expected. If you want to come to De Rassing for the football, and experience the full beauty of the Mirakelstadion, come during the regular season and come by car!

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