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The worst stadium in Europe

By Walter Broeckx

As Tony recently wrote an article about some terrible grounds in the UK I must say that one of my favourite things during the holidays is going to stadiums. I usually take a tour when I can and so I have seen some fine stadiums in the world. Most grounds in Holland are new and shining and very comfortable.

But this supposed to be about worse stadiums and the worst stadium I know… is the one nearest to my home. It is the ground called “De Bosuil” which you could translate as “The wood owl”. The home of the oldest club in Belgium R. Antwerp FC.

When the stadium was at its best it could contain some 60.000 people and had 2 huge terraces behind the goals and two big sitting stands beneath the pitch. It was the place where Belgium used to play its most important international games: Belgium – Holland.

The oldest club in the country, the biggest stadium in the country, one can imagine how proud the fans of this club were.

But during the ’70 and ’80 the stadium began to rot. I don’t know if the translation is correct but it had concrete rot as they called it. Together with this came the hooliganism and the combination of a stadium that is falling to peaces, literally, and hooligans is the worst combination you can imagine.

As a kid I went every now and then when there was a promising game on or when my local team had to play a derby game and mostly lost. I supported what you could call the Crystal Palace of Antwerp.

The things I have seen thrown was incredible. First the home fans would throw all their glass bottles to the opposing fans and when everything was broken or thrown they just hammered on the concrete and the concrete pieces that came lose where used as projectiles. They actually brought hammers to the ground to hit at the concrete. This was real madness. If Antwerp played a game against another top club or a derby game it was riots before, during and after the game.

The stadium itself, like I said as rotten as can be has on the one end a big sitting stand which is called the “little stand”. I never could understand the name little as it is the biggest stand but I really think the adjective little was named because of the roof.

You had to pay for a sitting place on a covered stand but only the last 12 rows of the stand is actually covered. So on a grey day you had to be in early to be sure that you had a place under the roof if it would begin to rain.

And when it started to rain you had a mass of people moving higher up the stand to find a dry spot. But even as you sat under the roof this didn’t mean you would stay dry. No if the wind was blowing from the wrong direction there wasn’t a dry spot on the whole stand because the roof was placed way to high to cover the stand. And when the wind was not blowing…you could just be sitting under a hole in the roof and become soaking wet.

Every now and then when there was a storm some peaces of the roof came lose and if lucky it blew over the rest of the roof but if unlucky it could fall down upon your head.

So whatever the weather it was always and adventure to go there and you never knew if you would get home safe or not. Be it for the hooligans or the weather, you never could say it was dull.

Oh yes there were toilets in the stands. I think some two urinals and two cubicles.   For a stand where some 15.000 people could sit! I don’t know which diseases you could catch there because only a person who could not smell and was blind would dare to enter those facilities. The walls were brown but I never discovered if it was paint or ….

This was the condition in my childhood (35 years ago) and the last time I went there (2 seasons ago) it looked as if nothing has changed there over the years. And this facilities was for the home fans.

Well to be fair, something did change over the years. The two giant terraces behind the goals disappeared and made room for a new and comfortable and nice stand behind one goal. The other new stand is what we call “De viskom” which you can translate as ‘the fishbowl”. Behind the goal there is a large wall of some 10 meter high and above it is a huge glass wall with seating areas behind it. This is where the rich people go and sit and can have meals. But it is as ugly as the face of Wayne Rooney to look at.

Well in fact RAFC, as it is known by their fans, has a partnership with MU, so this could explain a lot.

It is the oldest club in our country, it is feared for the worst hooligans in our country, and it has the ugliest stadium in our country.

Oh yes indeed, if you ever would come in Antwerp some day no need to check the tour dates. There are none. Maybe I should start some tours under the name: “Horror for football fans”.

And if ever in Antwerp, call me, I will show you some nicer peaces of my town.

MAKING THE ARSENAL: The novel that describes the foundation of the modern Arsenal 100 years ago is available through www.emiratesstadium.info and via Amazon.

WOOLWICH ARSENAL: The day to day activities – and the fight for survival – of our club 100 years ago, recorded on the daily blog: www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk Today: Whatever happened to Football Fiction?

(c) Hamilton House Mailings plc 2009.  This article may not be reprinted in whole or part without written permission of the copyright owners and full acknowledgment of the author and UNTOLD ARSENAL.  All enquiries to Tony@Hamilton-House.com or call (during UK office hours) 01536 399 013.

11 comments to The worst stadium in Europe

  • This story reminds me of my first visit to Crystal Palace – it was when I was a teenager and I think they were playing Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic.

    I lived in Poole as a teenager, having moved out of London, and my local league team was “Boscombe” as they were then known (they are now AFC Bournemouth, top of the 4th division and about to go bust).

    In those days we had “football specials” – trains that just took the supporters from their home town to the match – and sometimes I went on one of those. So this might have been about 1962 – and the Crystal Palace ground had mud and grass slopes at the four corners of the ground. No concrete, no terracing, just a slope. For fun the kids used to run to the top and slide down again. No health and safety in those days.

    Incidentally, in our last discussion one writer wrote in and said the Ems was the worst ground that Arsenal had played in! I really disagree – I sit in the upper tier to the right of the goal and the noise is good, the banter is funny, and about four rows in front of us is a man who brings a football rattle of the old type to the game and uses it when we score – it is all good fun.

    To our right is the disabled area – and I have to say the facilities are excellent. A few weeks ago a friend took his young son to a game, and his son got a little distressed at the noise after one of the goals. Immediately a steward came along, offered assistance, and took father and son to a space in the disabled area where they could sit with more room, and ease of exit, as the young lad calmed down.

    Now that is what I call a stadium.

  • walter

    Before I get surrounded by grimm looking Antwerp fans, in fact I know one who is also an Arsenal fan and who moved a few years ago to London just to be closer to the Arsenal (that is what one could call a real fan), just these few facts to give them some credit as well.
    Antwerp is the last team from Belgium to have played an european cup final and it was played at the old Wembley and they lost 1-3 to Parma. How rotten they can behave in our country, the behaved like the best fans in the world on that day. They sang for 90 minutes altough they didn’t have a chance to win during the game but kept on supporting their players and team and did them proud.
    When my local team went bust and the players didn’t get payed for some half season but still kept on playing and even became champions they played a friendly in the Bosuil at the end of that season and we won 1-5. The home fans after game first booed their players in and then turned to our players who where enjoying this win for their own fans and then had to go to the dressing room and pass the the Antwerp fans who gave a standing ovation to my local team that played 2 divisions lower at that time.
    So credit to the real fans of Antwerp but you still have the ugliest stadium in the Benelux. 😉

  • walter

    I remember a game long ago, in the rain, on that stand with the little roof and the fans started singing on the old ‘singing in the rain-tune” : We’re sitting in the rain, we’er sitting in the rain, we’re singing and sitting in the rain ….’

  • Pete the First

    Good shout Walter. Glad to hear the shared experience of the football fan.

    A question: Is the moustache still a fixture of Belgian life?

    PS: Agree with Tony. The Grove (ahem) is a great stadium!

  • Latest news this saturday evening before I venture out to hear/see/witness an evening celebrating Syd Barrett (yes I don’t know what it is going to be like, but one can but venture out).

    Anyway, no reports of the inevitable crippling of our players as yet. But a really brillo performance by Ramsey who singlehandedly beat Scotland, N Ireland, England, Ireland, Luxembourg, Holland, and the Customs and Excise Reserve XI. (That makes no sense, but he was great). No wonder the Lord Wenger keeps playing him. He will do anything to make his stay.

    So imagine we had all fit all at one time…

    Denilson, Song, Diaby, Cesc, Ramsey, Nasri, Rosicky.

    who do you play in the middle 3. We started with Denilson, Song, Cesc, before Denilson got his injury.

    Meanwhile Russia won and I heard Arshavin got his name taken. Ireland play sometime around now I think.

    Oh and I wonder how much England bribed the ref in that game against Brazil? The England keeper shouldn’t just have been sent off, he should have been put in a time machine and sent back to the 8th century.

    Well, maybe that’s harsh. 12th century?

    Have a good saturday night.

  • walter

    Well Pete I’ve changed my moustache a few years ago but as my wife didn’t like my face so naked (am I that ugly ?? 😉 ) a grew a little beard round my mouth.
    As a saying is over here: “a kiss without a beard is like potatoes without salt”. 😉
    But yes now I think of it, a lot of men have moustaches over here.. but not as many as a few years back.

  • t00farg0ne

    Update on Tony’s comment, RvP was stretchered off and flown to hospital in Holland for scans. Not looking good. Might have to rely a lot on Eduardo with Bendtner out.

  • Waleed

    From the BBC:

    2212: Now then, I cannot confirm this, repeat, cannot confirm this but according to MFBorman on Twitter, Dutch TV are reporting that Robin van Persie will be out for two to three months with torn ankle ligaments.

    Looks like he’ll be out for a while. I can’t put into words how disappointing this is.

  • walter

    Just coming home from a nice gig and heard the news from my son.
    And yes, the news is that he has torn the ligaments of his ankle.
    If I had to use the words that go trough my head I could be banned for live.
    He would be out for 2 or 3 months. So disgusted….

  • Story about Robin continues in new post on Sunday 15th…

  • anup

    i think,,,not by construction or beauty(and placement and crowd and supporters,arrangements)….but purely bcoz of how unlucky it is for its team……its emirates!!!!!!!! since we moved from highbury we haven’t won trophies + we always have half our team injured…that too at the same time…..ridiculous….just ridiculous..its the most unlucky stadium i suppose in europe…sorry gooners…. i can’t think of any other reason why we dropped title previous to previous season…dropped defenders in last season that too at the crucial point of time….i can’t we are just plain unlucky…