Thursday, August 07, 2008
KV Turnhout – K Lierse SK (05-08-2008)
It’s been a long time since I went to a game by bus, let alone by regional bus. But given the poor evening train connection in Belgium, P.S. and I had no other choice than to Turnhout, 42 km to the north, by bus, an agreeable 1 hour. We arrived to the center of town with just under an hour before kick-off. This allowed us a relaxed 30 minute walk to the Stadspark (city park), the leafy setting of the stadium of KV Turnhout.
We bought (general) tickets for 8 euro and entered the stadium. There were some 500 people, most of which fans of the away team, Lierse SK. The teams are owned by the same owner, Wadi Degla Investment, an Egyptian business that also owns the Wadi Degla Sporting Club in Cairo. So, it seemed that this was the season opener for both teams, and Lierse SK just has more supporters. Then again, Lierse SK plays in the Tweede Klasse (Second Division), having won the top division of Belgium in 1997, whereas KV Turnhout plays a division lower, and cannot look back at a glorious past.
The Stadsparkstadion is a horrible site. It is completely new, but only counts two stands, both on the long side. One is very small, including the sad away fans section (not in use today), the other a bit bigger, housing the canteen, dressing rooms, and ‘business section’. Unfortunately both stands are separated from the pitch by a broad athletics track! Consequently, the stadium provides very little atmosphere; tonight the little also came from the away fans, which make you wonder how a game against, say, RRC Peruwelz are.
Lierse used the friendly mainly to test a whole lot of players, almost exclusively Africans. It seems that the Egyptian owner hopes to use Lierse to bring African talents to Europe to then sell them with great profit; something SK Beveren has tried recently, and failed miserably (despite having much better African players than Lierse). Not surprising then, given all the testers, that Lierse didn’t play very well tactically. Most players were mainly busy with themselves and there were no set plays.
Nevertheless, it was no surprise when Lierse SK was the first to score, in the 11th minute, after a poor ball back and a cool finishing: 0-1. Tunhout kept playing its own game, fairly decent given the mediocrity of the squad, and in the 14th minute had a good set of attack, including three headers and three safes of the Lierse goalie.
Lierse was mainly counter-attacking in this phase, which almost led to a second goal in the 17th minute. However, in the 21st minute Turnhout got what it deserved: a strong shot from 20 meters turned slowly away from the goalie: 1-1. In the remain time of the first half both teams got one good chance each, but 1-1 was also the half time score. As there was little to do or see in the stadium, except perhaps for the stone remembering 35 years of KFCT (the predecessor), we just used the break to move from the main stand to the small stand opposite to it.
The second half started with a long scrimmage in front of the Turnhout goal, but with no result for Lierse. After that the level of the game continued to decrease, reaching a very poor level at the end. There were virtually no remarkable pieces of play to see, as mostly both teams fought tough physical duels at the midfield. Only in the 60th minute we saw a first real chance, for the hosts, but the goalie deflected the shot of the striker. The following corner kick also created a chance, but not a goal.
By now there was no atmosphere left on the stands, as both groups of supporters seemed disappointed by their team and increasingly annoyed by the erratic referee. Both teams had one more chance, in the 80th and 84th minute, before they settled for the final score of 1-1.
PS and I were happy it was over. Despite the nice setting, in a green city park, the ground of KV Turnhout is one of the worst I have ever visited. No atmosphere whatsoever, and the distance to the pitch is awful. They also seem to have few fans (particularly when they are not successful). Definitely not a club to recommend!