Thursday, April 02, 2015

Royale Union Wallonie Ciney – Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (28-02-2015)

Given that we were parked so close to the stadium, we were out of Cologne in no time and had no problem making the 215 km (135 miles) trip to Ciney in Wallonia, the French speaking southern part of Belgium. We even had time to make a stop at Friture Gigi in Welkenraedt (near Liege) and get some much-needed coffee in Ciney itself.

Ciney is a small touristic town and the team was promoted to the Derde Klasse (Third Division) of Belgian football last year. The Stade J. Lambert is one of the cutest stadiums I have ever visited. The stadium was inaugurated in 1975 and holds 5.000 – although I didn’t see how they would ever fit in there.

The ticket office, and only entrance to the stadium, is at a dead end of a residential street. We bought tickets for 10 euro each after which we descended into the stadium, which lays below street level. This evening there are ca. 350 people, of which at least half are away supporters, who made the 87 km (55 miles) trip from Brussels.

Most of the home fans are older and local. The away fans are more mixed. There are some old, long-standing fans, but the majority are hipsters and students from Brussels, as Union has become a cult club among the more and less alternative (and affluent) youngsters in Brussels. At least the Union fans drum and sing, so that the game has a good atmosphere.

Union has a very young team with talented, but really short and egocentric players. They are the much better team, but their problematic mentality and lack of team spirit keeps Ciney in the game for the first 30 minutes.

In the 38th minute Union has a good attack: the striker stops the ball at the penalty spot and places it cool in the upper corner: 0-1. This leads to much excitement among the loud away fans, including some fireworks.

Two minutes after the goal Union has another good chance, but this one goes just wide. For Ciney half time cannot come quick enough. Half time score: 0-1.

The second half starts with a surprise. In the 50th minute a good attack by Ciney gets a lucky deflection in the box: 1-1. Five minutes later a great Union attack over left leads to a good cross and an excellent finish: 1-2.

Within five minutes the score is even 1-3. A good attack over right, after a long cross, is headed low, under the bad goalkeeper. Ciney respond with a good attack, but the header is bounced out of the goal by the goalkeeper and the rebound goes just wide.

The young Union players become even more egocentric, as they know Ciney has been beaten and it is even easier to score. Many chances are wasted. In the 83th minute a great Union counter is poorly controlled by the striker so that the Ciney goalie can get the ball. Just before the end of the game Ciney gets a penalty. When they hit the crossbar, it is clear that it is not to be. Union wins this game 1-3.

RUW Ciney is one of the cutest teams I have ever seen. Everything about it screams amateurs. They seem to enjoy their spell in the “big leagues”, knowing it cannot last. In fact, they are doing so well that they run the risk of getting promoted to the Second Division, which they will have to turn down, as their stadium is not up to those standards and a renovation would be too costly (and would kill this great groundhop destination).

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