Football Shaped

Notes and News by Leo Hoenig

ATW90The European Game

New Season Road Trip

Coupe de Belgique – First Round.
RSC Libramont 2-1 RRC Mormont
Admission €6. Attendance ~130

Only my second game of the season, but this one feels like the real start. The previous game, Barry v Cliftonville was one day over four weeks ago (and only 18 days after the final game of 2018-19). This is also my first ground tick of the season.

Its a long drive, but thankfully not quite as hot as earlier in the week, so the air conditioning in the car was capable of standing up to the heat.

On arriving at Libramont’s ground, in Avenue de Houffalize, there were few people there. I wandered around to the cantine where I was the only customer for the minute. €2 for a glass of Brugs Blanche, from a 33 cl bottle. Good enough that I took a second at half time.

The ground is decent, with about seven steps of terracing all along one side. This is a little overgrown as you move away from the club house end. Building them up was helped by a natural slope which was probably levelled a long time ago. The club house is above the steps at the end closest to entry.

The other buildings are on the other side, dressing rooms in a two storey block close to the entrance, (the office is on the top level, and I only had to wander in to be offered a copy of the team sheet). The central area is a new or refurbished stand. The sign outside appears to say replacement of tribune, and the website refers to the new stand as opened in May. The far end is a second clubhouse, closed today, and labelled as that of the juniors. Its door opens to an artificial pitch which is at a lower level than the main pitch. There is another grass pitch behind this.

I saw these two teams play each other in the same round of the cup, just one day short of 17 years ago. RRC Mormont were the home side on that occasion, and won 2-1.

Mormont were in Division 4D at the time, and although 5th level, their current position in 3rd Amatuer, ACFF/B is about the same. Libramont were probably 1st Provincial League, Luxembourg Province at the time, which is where they are now.

Mormont came into the game in what appeared to be an ultra defensive 3-6-1 formation. However, they showed about as much co-ordination as Theresa May’s cabinet over Brexit resulting in Libramont being 2-0 up within 15 minutes.

The visitors steadied the ship after that, changing to a more conventional 3-5-2 and dominating possession, but creating few chances. In fact, the best chance for a further goal was created by Libramont on the half hour.

After the break, it was almost one way traffic but Mormont still failed to make a serious impression. Bertrand Nique in the home goal was proving adept at gathering long balls into the box, but was never tested with shots on goal. Mormont brought on their second and third subs together on 63 minutes, and almost immediately one of these fashioned a clear chance for Hebette, the sole striker at the start. Hebette however, found he had to take a touch and it was a poor one and the opportunity was lost. They eventually pulled one back when Prevot converted a penalty kick.

The referee then made sure he was noticed, sending off two home players in the last 15 minutes. Nkokolo was first too go, with 11 minutes left – and only a minute or two after his team mate, Poncelet was booked for what appeared to be a worse offence. The first goalscorer, Pablo Richard was then giving his second yellow card two minutes into injury time. This resulted in a final free kick which Nique easily gathered and the game finished 2-1.

Regionalliga West.

SV Bergisch Gladbach 09 v VfB Homberg 0-1

Admission €7 (old gits standing), Programme A4 (free, four page), Attendance ~450 (official)

A reasonable drive up through the Ardennes and into Germany, with not too much rain to interfere, I arrive at the ground around 80 minutes before kick off. No bars or gathering of fans outside, so after checking around a little to try and ensure I have a good parking space for a quick exit – I enter the ground

The stadium seems to be only referred to as “sponsor’s name” Arena where in this case the sponsor is a company called Belkaw. A search around, gives me one alternative “Stadion Paffrather Strasse” from a Frank Jasperneite blog around 16 years ago. I also note from his blog that the main stand has been extensively refurbished with a new roof and seats, and that the club name has subtly changed from SSG Bergisch Gladbach 09 to SV Bergisch Gladbach 09.

Sixteen years ago, Frank watched the team in Verbandsliga Mittelrhein, and last season they were champions of that league, earning promotion to the fourth level, Regionalliga West. My only previous viewing of the club was an away match in 2013, when they were beaten 3-2 at Kray close to the end of the season. Both teams were to be relegated.

Visitors for the game were VfB Homberg, who were the champions of the Niederrhein Liga last season and hence also won promotion.

The pitch is within a running track and does not look in good condition considering it is the first game of the season. There is one small patch on the left wing with no grass at all! The stand takes up the full length of one side and provides the only cover. All around the rest is good condition stepped terracing, and plenty of it. Wiki shows it with a capacity of 10,500, but it probably requires more safety requirements (more exits, more crush barriers) to allow that type of numbers. At least it does not suffer from over fencing and with the home team having never played at a higher level than this, it is more than sufficient for their needs.

Sufficient is one thing, but it appears that the club has failed to make the stadium a home in many years of using it. The club badge appears in a few places, but there is no club house, no marketing or sales. There is a beer and sausage stall near the entrance with Kölsch and Bratwurst on offer at €3 each. I did partake in both. Just above this, and oddly in a corner of the ground is what can only be described as a VIP Gazebo. A few seats had been added under temporary cover in this unsatisfactory position for the “lucky” few.

There is nothing else, and even to use the toilets I was directed outside the ground to the building opposite. This meant a return through the security check on my return (in case I was picking up weapons or water bottles during this trip). It also means the ticket issuing and checking is a little on the lax side. Despite stewards on the entrance to the stand, one of the group (not me) did a full walk around using the pathways at the back of the terrace and stand and picked up the team list from the press box. I rarely bother to try and get this in Germany now, as it will appear on about 20 minutes before the start.

The other English groundhoppers, delayed by their flight in, arrived at the ground a little over 30 minutes before kick-off. I had sent a text message to remind them that the reduced price for admission was for over sixties. Nick Willis took offence as I sent the message to his phone and he has not reached the magic age of cheaper admission prices. Some of the others in the car found the information useful.

The game will not live long in the memory, there were plenty of early attacking moves, most of which died as the teams were not going to risk committing players into positions within the box. By the second half, it seemed that the game had ground to a halt with nothing much happening at all. I mentioned the superstition that changing one’s location in a ground can result in a goal. [Clearly rubbish, but you remember the times it works, rather than Barry Town’s Europa League game and other 0-0 draws]. Anyway, I left the group and went on my little walk, really because I wanted a few photos from other angles – and lo and behold, Homberg won a corner which was headed in by Danny Rankl. This led to a final twelve minutes with the home team finally committing to attack and even the keeper coming forward for an injury time corner. It also meant Homberg were in time wasting mode. They had made on substitution just before the goal, but three more followed in a queue in the last ten minutes. This caused me to make two discoveries.

  1. It appears that in the Regionalliga West, four subs are now allowed. I checked a couple of other results and these had one team at least using four. A quick check of some results from the other Regionalliga did not show any team using four.
  2. I thought I saw a rule saying substituted players should leave the field at the closest point. Maybe I imagined this, as everyone still dawdled to the centre line

Having completed my walk around, I made a quick exit to collect my car. The car park is an old rote erde playing field, and actually has two steps of terracing of its own.

During the first game of the day, the weather had stayed kindly, considering we were on uncovered terraces, and there was only a threat of rain. I just made onto the motorways that create a ring around Köln before the heavens opened. I have driven through heavy rain storms before, but rarely one that is so heavy for such a length of time – especially as I was driving west, which normally contracts the length of storm as the fronts move from west to east. For most of the distance to the Belgium border, hardly anything on the motorway could exceed 80 km/h. In Belgium, conditions were a little better, but there was hardly a break in the rain.

All in all, the weather added 30 minutes to the journey time, but I still arrived at the Stade A. Badet more than half an hour before the start, even with a diversion and five-minute stop to check into my hotel.

Immediately on entering the ground, I saw someone emerging from the office with a team list, poking my head into the office, I quickly procured a copy for myself. Although in Belgium, they also manage to publish the teams on-line, they do not always manage this before kick off and first names do not reach the service. [I think you need to have the Belgium FA’s smartphone app to see line ups, while in Germany, any internet connection will allow you to see them].

It was €6 to get in, and a bottle of Leffe Ruby Ale was €3. At half time, I indulged in Frikandel (Belgium sausage) and Frites, with Mayonnaise (of course), for €4.50.

The home team, Royal Gosselies Sports. They trace their history back to 1908 and have a good low matricule number, 69. Unlike many clubs in Belgium, I do not have a long list of mergers and name changes in their history line. Last season they were in the Hainaut Provincial League, winning promotion through play-offs after finishing third in division. The visitors, OC Nismes (matricule 6348) play in the Namur provincial league. It is a fair guess that Gosselies have played on the one venue for most of their history.

Gosselies is a slightly run down, mixed industrial and residential area not far from Charleroi airport. I noticed a tram in the centre, so it is presumedly easy to get to from Charleroi. The ground is on the edge of the town, and you must be able to see the lights from the motorway, but nothing of the ground with the fencing. It has a classic stand, narrow but tall, on the half way line opposite the entrance. There are a couple of steep concrete steps in front of the club house (close to the entrance), with awnings over the club windows providing the only cover on that side. While under grey skies, the area looks somewhat drab, colour is provided by the neighbouring hospital, which is so bright that I imagine sufferers from migraines need to be sent elsewhere.

The rest of ground surrounds is flat concrete, worn through by the ages in places.

With the rain still coming down, I wandered around to the stand. The crowd for the game was quite small, and evenly split between those who walked around to the cover, or those that decided to stay close to the supply of beer.

The game opened brightly, and it was clear that Nismes were not allowing their position in a lower division to be a cause of taking a defensive outlook. It was not even their first good chance when Romain Perot put them ahead in the twelfth minute. They were well on top on the first half hour, with Simon Hore almost doubling the advantage, thundering the ball against the post. Gosselies created a few openings of their own, mainly through the work of Tony Mascaux on the right wing, but his crosses were wasted by poor finishing in the centre. The eventual equaliser came from a free kick which bounced down off the bar to give Dorian Deboutez a tap in.

Goal – Gosselies take the lead at 2-1

Gosselies soon got on top after the break, with Jonathan Feria Mathias getting his head to a corner to put the home side ahead, and then increased this with another tap in, this time by Maxime Lefebvre after the visiting keeper had made a save. With fifteen minutes to play, Romain Perot pulled one back for Nismes, promising us an good finish until Mascaux got put through five minutes from the end and finished cleanly to allow me to record

Coupe de Belgique – First Round

Royal Gosselies Sports v O.C. Nismes 4-2

Admission €6, Attendance ~80

Beker van Belgie – First Round

Eendracht Zele v KVK. Ninove 0-2

Admission €7, Attendance ~150

A greyish day in Belgium but without the rain storms that had battered the previous evening. I arrived at the ground about 30 minutes before the start and find it tucked between a beer distribution depot and some newish flats.

Having paid €7 to get in, you are behind the goal and there are three steps of terracing, made up of concrete beams immediately in front of you. To your left is the club house, raised in front of the goal and a main stand with over 400 seats slightly offset from the centre line. Two newer areas of standing cover have been added with relatively fresh concrete terracing, while the three steps goes along much of the rest, in front of most of the stand and the area between the stand and the further cover.

No problem with getting the teamsheet, as these were distributed (free of charge) at the entrance to the ground.

The visitors, KVK Ninove won the Oost Vlaanderen Provincial League last season, and therefore won promotion. Although Eendracht Zele and Bambrugge tied for second place, it was the next two teams down, Eendracht Aalter and Lochristi that entered the play-offs with fifth placed Lochristi being the team eventually winning promotion to the 3rd Amateur League. Such are the oddities of a competition that awards play-off places to “period champions”, as opposed to direct league positions.

Naturally, I spent a few minutes in the club house before kick-off with a Leffe Brune at €3 being my tipple of choice. When I paid my money, the lady took the note to a machine, which generated 5 tokens. She then took these, but gave me back a €2 coin. While I have no problems with the token system for buying drinks in Belgium, saving cash at the bar, I did find this one potentially more awkward for the one-time visitor as it may not always be possible to choose the exact price of your drink.

If Zele were hoping to get some satisfaction after missing out on promotion and play-offs, it was not evident at the start of the game with Ninove having all the early play. However, they were wasteful with the chances created (and plenty were created), allowing the homesters to gradually claw their way into contention. Indeed, Eendracht were the first team to get the ball into the net – but their effort in the final minute of the first half was ruled offside.

After the break, it was much of the same with Ninove again in the ascendency. Still, there was still a number of missed chances, blocks and saves to keep the scores level until the 63rd minute with Ninove awarded a free kick at the right distance. Again, my superstition comes to the fore. I am already watching from the opposite side of the ground to where I viewed the scoreless first period and now I decline to lift the camera and take a shot. There is practically no evidence for the idea that a goal is less likely to be scored if I am taking a picture, especially at 0-0. (The reality being that the probability is always that the kick if blasted over the bar or into the wall).

Still, this time it works as the kick is curled just into the top corner. The immediate result being that every single home player starts arguing with the referee, with the goalkeeper leading the charge. I did not immediately understand the problem and needed to chat to one of the assistant referees at the end of the game for clarification. One of the visiting players had stood at the end of the defensive wall and under the new laws you cannot stand within one meter of a wall of three or more players.

Of course, a meter is not a very long distance, and the photographer for Ninove captured the moment and published it in facebook,;sdWYOE~;zhQwEYzN~_0vz7tM~;x~_fOTZpM2nVGdiF1KPnxUNzY7yI9gvm~;~_xq5VlabqffM9PjzEL370q2~_Ri9d8uNfLR70w1pN4b4rvtWu3qHM~_zJsnL14FXJL1O~_8E89FvpG688wznkQM~_WeTTBj5m7H~_2P~;kf~_XD3m29b76y30N2vsF9hH8l9RgM3Zz~;sq4qxod~;R914trjfuRhzUz2rz2T8L~;ZX7sVic~;R38~;JDfbKx25x1H~;Wni6DeH~;jjQy~_zhs~;irT~_xP5uaLYF4~;N56tF~_qfA~;2D~;Qf80lnfjXwt9u~;t~;~;ScnYf1jfm7m3EsTr0FsT~;9FXoa~;WKi259~_U8X8Rj96wg~;O93X5pzHOzTf6XZYf~;Tjrt3dPvv6in8Rwn3P1dZO9h~_J75pi3qbcc~_It~_s~_Uj5KOCe~_jnb0V~_3n3YxPr5h8vmK~_O9hyE~;332dlw~;~_Tf5qe5~;Xf261fnz3uX5N~_lV8~;z8~;fPWnf9RmY~_rpu1~_hf8Oxv~_fHgP88eR8BvjVvP7r7ufpag28N~_fr6x997uNdx~;s8cftPivAF92qjP3v~_8~_4~;1a9K~;CT9Fv3zcZ3IezYP8OJx~;9n~;Le1Hg0rynxH3lL9aN33urv9Lfq09QHy3UxznEfXH6Mff~;~_e6vc~;9n9HdAT~_f~_7Ox8xn4d2C~;ns9j~;s8U~;BYFUjw~-~-.bps.a.375229193188052/375232323187739/?type=3&theater

(let’s hope that link works).

The picture, taken with the ball in the air and having past the wall does not therefore show the players relative position at the time the kick was taken – but the bodies of the players are now more than a meter apart. Can’t be sure about their feet though. This is going to be great fun if and when it goes to VAR!

I had already noticed a drop ball not adhering to the new regulations and only one of the substitutions in the game resulted in the substituted player going off at the closest point (and in this case, skulking directly to the dressing rooms). The assistant referee explained that the local FA have only briefed the elite referees on the new laws so far, so this game was being played under the old laws. At the one moment it mattered, it seems the players were not aware of this!

A second goal was added on 75 minutes, and Ninove stayed well on top, hitting the post and crossbar, so I think the win was deserved.