Cercle Brugge v Royal Antwerp, Sunday 11th September 2022, 4pm

Bruges is an enjoyable city to visit. It’s got all the old stuff to look at when you are wandering around and lots of bars and restaurants. Jen and I stayed in the centre for three nights and whilst there were some hen and stag parties going on, there was always a friendly vibe about the place.

Drinks were expensive, particularly in the touristy squares, but they seem expensive everywhere these days. Besides, I’ve always been able to put the cost out of my mind when the bill is in a foreign currency. It’s different rules as well when you are on your holidays.

As you may have expected I checked the nearby fixtures and the game with the timing that suited me best was a top-tier game between Cercle Brugge and Royal Antwerp at the Jan Breydel Stadium. It’s a ground that Cercle share with Club Brugge and the difference in the popularity of the two Brugge sides is reflected in their average attendances. Club usually have around twenty-five thousand fans cheering them on whilst Cercle are lucky if they get a fifth of that.

The ground was three quarters of an hours walk from the centre, although not many fans seemed to be making the journey on foot. Plenty of cyclists passed me though as I headed out of town and on arriving at the stadium, I noticed the abundance of bike racks. I’m not sure if getting there on a bike is an option at the Riverside. If not, I’d like to see it implemented.

With the attendances so small for Cercle games I hadn’t bothered buying a ticket in advance and I walked around the entire stadium looking for the ticket office. Eventually I asked someone where I could buy a ticket only to be told that none were available on a match day as, due to the rivalry that visitors Royal Antwerp have with Cercle’s fellow tenants Club Brugges, this fixture was deemed a ‘risk match’

Bugger. I wasn’t going to give up without trying to get in though and I started asking around for a spare. Everyone was very sympathetic and one fella even tried to buy one online for me before learning of the matchday sale restriction.

As the game kicked off I was still stood outside one of the entrances asking latecomers if they had a ticket that I could buy. Eventually a smartly dressed bloke told me that he might be able to help as he had five season tickets but didn’t know if the others had all been used. He made a quick phone call and a few minutes later his nephew came running down from inside the stadium with an unused card. I was in.

The smartly dressed fella, who looked a bit like Rav in his heyday, wouldn’t take any money on the basis that he hadn’t paid for the tickets anyway. He told me that he was an agent and was there to primarily meet up with a couple of his players after the game, hence his lack of concern at missing the kick-off.

I sat with him and his party in the first half. When he learned that I was a Boro fan, he remarked that fellow agent Zahavi had done plenty of business with us. It’s a world that has in the main, passed me by. I remember Ingle getting involved with players over the years and acting on the fringes with boot deals for youth players but I’d no real idea what it involved. ThIs fella reckoned that with the transfer window now closed his main role was to find out if the players were happy and if not, address whatever issue was eating away at them.

At half-time I said my goodbyes and shifted seats to get some photos from a different viewpoint. I wasn’t able to get a drink as I didn’t have the stadium specific pre-loaded card necessary. Clearly groundhoppers weren’t given much consideration by whoever thought of that system.

Cercle were in green and black with league leaders Antwerp in white. The visitors had taken the lead with the first attack of the game and whilst I was still stood outside trying to buy a spare. They doubled their lead midway through the second half with a glancing header from a corner. It stayed that way and Antwerp took the points. Their fans who were up in the top corner to my right sang in English that “Brugges is a shithole, I wanna go home”. On that basis, I think I need to visit Antwerp.

There was an added Boro bonus when former Middlesbrough player Viktor Fischer came on for the final five minutes. I doubt his time at the Boro was particularly enjoyable as his one season was Karanka’s Premier League campaign. He did ok in the time that he had in this game, nominally playing wide, I think, but drifting inside to try and get involved.

At full-time I walked back into the centre, reflecting on my good fortune that someone was decent enough to inconvenience himself to help a stranger.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: