Club Brugge v Cercle Brugge
Jan Breydal Stadion / Jupiler Pro League / 15th August 2014
“It’s a fairytale fucking town isn’t it?” These are the eloquent words used by gangster Harry (played by Ralph Fiennes) in the film In Bruges to describe the northern Belgian city of Bruges. I’m sure it can be worded slightly more poetic than that, but the sentiment is undoubtedly spot on: Bruges is a fairytale city. I visited Bruges on a family holiday when I was 12 and even at that tender age I realised that the Belgian city was something a bit special; I vowed I’d return one day in the future. So what better excuse than football – more specifically the Bruges derby between Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge on an August Friday night. With my pal Gibbo on board for the trip too, visits to KV Oostende and KAA Gent penciled into our weekend and cheap flights from Manchester to Charleroi booked, we had ourselves a Belgian ‘European Football Weekend’ planned.
We arrived into Charleroi Aiport, in the south of Belgium, shortly after 9am and after two hours on possibly the most boring bus trip ever, down a seemingly neverending straight motorway towards the north of Belgium, we arrived into beautiful Bruges.
Our first port of call was our hotel, located just 10 minutes away from the town’s famous square, where we were greeted by its very eccentric, but very friendly Dutch manager Hilke – he could even speak Welsh! With directions for the bus stop from our Dutch host, we headed round the corner from our hotel to hop on a bus to Bruges’ football stadium, located 3.5km west of the city centre in the Sint-Andries area. Tonight’s derby wasn’t kicking off until 8.30pm, but we decided to head over to the ground to see if we could get tickets in advance.
10 minutes after stepping on the number 5 bus, we found ourselves outside the Jan Breydel Stadion. We found a steward who informed us that we couldn’t buy tickets until an hour and half before kick-off, so we decided whilst we were there then, 6-7 hours before kick-off, we may as well have a nose around and get some photos of the stadium.
If you love concrete, then you’ll love the Jan Breydel Stadion as the four stands impose above you with their concrete design. The ground does look rather dated, but quite amazingly the ground, which is the home of both Club and Cercle Brugge, is the second newest football stadium in Belgium – it was built in 1975! Only Gent’s new arena, which we were visiting 2 days later, has been built since. Club Brugge KV came about through a merger of three clubs in1897 with FC Brugeois merging with Brugsche FC and then with Vlasmsche FC five years later.
The club moved to their De Klokke home in 1912 (which was renamed the Albert Dyserynckstadion after their club president who died in 1931), before they eventually moved into the Jan Breydel Stadion in 1975. The new home of football in Bruges was originally going to be called the Olympiastadion, but to gain grants from the Flanders authorities it was decided that the stadium needed a more Flemish sounding name. The club settled on naming it after Jan Breydel, a local hero from the 13th century when he lead the Bruges Matins in a revolt against Phillip the Fair; a statue of Jan Breydel stands in the centre of Marktplatz. Although the front of the stadium seemed to be a celebration of Club Brugge, around the other side of the ground we found the green walls that indicated the ground’s other inhabitants: the less well-known Cercle Brugge. Having debated whether we liked their kit or not (we decided it was rather ugly), we completed our lap of the stadium and headed back to the town.
Everyone always raves about the beer in Belgium, so I was frustrated that we had been in Belgium for a few hours and had still not had any of their famous beer. I suggested we head to Brugge’s famous Marktplatz, buy some beer from the shop and go on a walking, beer drinking tour of the city’s famous cobbled streets and explore the iconic medieval architecture and canals. We did eventually find a corner shop in the main square itself and we opted for the beer that sponsors the Belgian football league, Jupiler, a beer we both became fans of instantly (yes, we were aware that it’s not the craziest drink in Belgium and we did experiment with other, more potent beers on our trip).
After a quick pit stop back at our hotel, we wandered the streets of Bruges with our small cans of Jupiler in hand and with me pretending to be a Club Brugge hooligan with my 2005 Club shirt on (a shirt I’d bought off Ebay for £6 about 2 months before). Not to sound like a broken record, but Bruges is absolutely stunning and I might even goes as far to say that is the nicest city I’ve visited. There was a really nice, laidback atmosphere to the place on this pleasant Friday evening with tourists riding the canal boats and locals drinking coffees and beers outside the various bars and restaurants that lavish the streets.
We eventually stopped in a bar for a sit down (and some more Jupiler), where we got chatting with a travelling Geordie. It was now past 5 o’clock and with kick-off at 8.30pm, we decided to head towards t’Zand, where we were told we would find the main hub of Club Brugge fans.
All seemed quiet and relaxed in Bruges – that was until we headed down Gledmundstraat and onto the t’Zand square. We were greeted by a scene of blue and black with singing and lively flag waving, as Club fans drank in the streets outside the several bars in the square. Here we met up with Club Brugge fan Jonas Roeland, who had got in touch via the European Football Weekends Facebook group and soon Jonas was telling us about all things Club Brugge and more importantly teaching us the songs. As the beer flowed, we embraced the fans more and more and soon we were fully immersed in the crowd.
The Club Brugge fans were absolutely superb to us and were more than welcoming, although 1 or 2 were not impressed with the small purple stripe on Gibbo’s jacket – they really do hate Anderlecht a lot it seems. Some of them I think thought we were a bit crazy coming over from Manchester to watch a weekend of Belgian football, but all wanted to talk to us about our travels and to get us fired up for the derby.
It seems that it is a bit of a tradition for Club Brugge to march the 3.5km from t’Zand square to the ground on derby day and with me and Gibbo certified Club Brugge fans for the night (we now even had blue face paint and wristbands) the Club fans were adamant that we go on the march with them. Originally, me and Gibbo declined as we were worried about what time we’d get to the ground and we still didn’t have tickets. As the fans were gearing up though, I felt it’d be an experience we shouldn’t miss. The Club fans promised us we’d get tickets easily and soon enough with still two hours before kick-off, we were on the march with the Club fans. And thank goodness we decided to go.
The march was superb. A few hundred Club fans made the walk through the streets with drums banging, lots of chanting, blue fares being set off and flag waving, as well as coordinated sit downs in the street triggered by the “SIT DOWN, IF YOU HATE CERCLE!” chants, which was obviously followed by the call of “JUMP UP, IF YOU HATE CERCLE!”. By now I was well-equipped with Club songs and I even got a few started, as well as having a bit of a go of waving Jonas’ flag (which was harder to do than it looked), as we headed through the town like a parade, with the locals hanging out of windows waving us on. I’d also learned by now that all it took was to say the club’s famous motto “No Sweat, No Glory” to any Club fan and you could instantly strike up a rapport with them. However, this led to me repeating the phrase all evening and in fact for the majority of our three days in Belgium, which probably did Gibbo’s head in. In fairness to the club, the “No Sweat, No Glory” ethos of the club is hyped so much, that the players have to sign an additional section in their contract vowing to give their all for the club and to support its ideals. Brilliant stuff.
“You’ve not got a beer? Here you go,” was another example of how kind the Club Brugge fans were to us. The lad who gave us beer hadn’t even chatted to us beforehand and didn’t even after he had provided us with beer. Still most of the fans chatted away with us and by now I had fallen in love with Club Brugge and we hadn’t even seen them play yet; actually, that’s a lie – me and Gibbo did see them play Otelul Galati last summer on a football pitch next to a golf course at lavish resort Mottram Hall in Cheshire, after Club refused to play at Radcliffe Borough at the very last minute.
We past the Cercle Brugge fans, who were all drinking outside a pub not far from the ground and the inevitable “WE ALL AGREE! THAT CERCLE BRUGGE FANS ARE WANKERS!” started up. I was expecting an angry reaction from the Cercle fans, but they just seemed to laugh it off and smile at the passing march. It did make me think what would have happened on these shores if that happened.
As the march entered the final stretch, me and Gibbo hopped out and headed up the other side of the road to get tickets. We found a few ticket booths and with no queuing whatsoever, moments later we were the owners of two tickets for the Brugge derby, priced €50 for the two tickets. We paid a quick visit to the club shop, where I would usually buy a scarf on such a European jaunt, but with a slow moving queue I left it (although I have just purchased one online to make up for it). We had an hour before kick-off so we enjoyed a few more beers and a chat with one of the Club Brugge bear mascots, who was wandering the fan zone area at the back of the one stand, before heading around to our stand.
Unimaginatively, the stands are just named Nord, Oost, Zuid and West and after asking the fans, they told us to try get in the Nord stand as that is where the more vocal support is located. As we climbed the stairs, it occurred to us that our seat was going to be up in the heavens of the open north-east corner. From our seats at the top of the ground, the stadium looked more impressive than its outer concrete shell let on. The four stands are all two-tiered with the upper tier generally being much larger than the lower. Despite being in one of the shelter-less corner stands, it was fortunately a fairly pleasant night in Bruges so that wasn’t a bother; plus, the place was perfect for me and Gibbo’s photo-taking needs.
This being on the continent, beer was permitted in the stands, although it did require buying a supporter’s card for €1 to pay for it with their cashless system. The beer itself is served in small cups, but it is also reasonably priced at just over €2 and more importantly it actually tastes really nice. So with beers in hand and with Jonas now joining us in our stand, we were ready for the Bruges derby to get underway with Club Brugge entering the field in their famous blue and black and Cercle in their white and green and being cheered on by their fans in the corner of the Zuid stand.
The Bruges derby was first played in 1899-1900 and is currently the only derby regularly played within one Belgian city after teams in other cities such as Liege and Brussels have seen rival clubs drop out of the league or out of existence altogether. With Club Brugge generally being one of the best teams in Belgium since their 1970s golden era, it is unsurprising that Club Brugge have generally dominated this fixture with them winning 95 of the 160 derby matches (the results of the first two derbies have been lost to time though). A particularly bad blemish on Cercle’s record in the derby is the fact that Club Brugge’s biggest ever win was a 10-0 victory over their neighbours in 1991. Club’s success over the years has seen them fire up a more intense rivalry with Brussels-based Anderlecht, as both clubs regularly battle for major honours in Belgium.
The first half saw Club Brugge completely dominate proceedings with former Barca protegé Victor Vasquez playing particularly well out on the left. Club had had all the possession in the first 45 minutes and thoroughly deserved their lead, which came on the half hour mark. A brilliant cross from the right sailed over the Cercle defence and to Nicolas Castillo, who chested the ball down and poked home from inside the 6 yard box. All the days beer made my celebrations rather more raucous. Sadly, by the time I had calmed down, I’d lost my bearings and kicked over one of my beers on the floor; I was rather angry with myself to say the least. Back down I went into the concourse for some more while the Nord stand to our right was in full voice now with their team 1-0 up.
There was still time for Club to blow two other chances and for the ref to deny Club a penalty when it looked like the brilliantly named Nikola Storm was taken down in the box.
Half-time: Club Brugge 1 – 0 Cercle Brugge.
Jonas got the drinks in and soon the second half was underway. Cercle Brugge looked like they were finally going to play a bit. Oz international goalie Matthew Ryan stopped Cercle’s N’Diaye from scoring from a tight angle, before Club began to dominate again.
However, disaster would strike in the 66th minute as Cercle equalised against the run of play. A misplaced pass from Club’s Fernando Menegazzo saw Cercle quickly break forward and a through ball to Junior Kabananga saw the striker slot home under Ryan.
Club Brugge tried to get back in the game and the drove forward at every opportunity. Sadly, the referee was beginning to have a shocker and regularly denied Club with some stupid decisions. The atmosphere was beginning to turn a bit more nasty with hatred spilling down from the stands onto the referee.
As the game entered the closing stages, it even began to boil over on the pitch as both set of players came together for a spot of ‘handbags’.
Once the ref had calmed it down, there was still time for one last chance for Club in injury time and what a chance it was! A long ball bounced over the Cercle defence and Castillo was through on goal with only the goalie to beat. The excitement clearly got to Castillo’s head and with practically the last kick of the day he blazed his effort over the goalie and the goal itself. A shocking miss to practically drop two points for Club Brugge.
Full-time: Club Brugge 1 – 1 Cercle Brugge. A crazy result as Club were the superior throughout.
All that was left to do now was for the home team to complete a lap of honour to thank the fans, whilst the Cercle players and fans celebrated in their corner of the ground. We said our goodbyes to Jonas and Joren, the young Club fan who had also joined us for the second half, and we headed out into the Bruges night.
The beer had convinced me that I was some sort of Club super fan and so I left the stadium in a bad mood with Club somehow not winning the game. We decided to make the long walk back to the town centre and we arrived back at our hotel at gone midnight, just as the bar/restaurant that was housed in the bottom floor of our hotel was about to close. Kindly, Hilke kept the bar open for us and we stayed there for an hour chatting with the barman and some stragglers in the bar about our football adventures and the big Manchester United v Swansea game the next day (which I am sure I’ll joyfully talk about in my upcoming blog about our trip to KV Oostende).
An absolute superb day. You will not find a nicer city than Bruges and I would highly recommend a visit to anyone. However, the really winner on the day for me was the Club Brugge fans who were so good to us and made us so welcome. I’ll certainly be looking out for their results in the future and I would love to join them for another game in the future. No Sweat, No Glory.
Highlights: Bruges – what a stunning city!, fairly cheap city too, drinking at t’Zand square with the Club fans, the Club Brugge fans, the march to the ground, cheap(ish tickets), our seats up in the corner.
Low Points: not that much around the ground, Club Brugge only getting one point.
See all the photos from our day in Bruges at the Bruges derby here.
Also, make sure to check out Gibbo’s site, Gibbo’s 92, for his upcoming report on our day in Bruges here.