By Walter Broeckx
Anderlecht. If there is one team that can be called the best team in Belgium it is Anderlecht. I say this with gritted teeth. Not because I support one of their rivals. But because my local team lost their biggest talent I had ever seen play to them. And some other stories that go even back from before I was born when my local team was the big challenger of Anderlecht for 3 years and only losing a title when a referee who did the last Anderlecht match gave a non existant penalty in favour of Anderlecht so they could win the title.
The story goes that this referee said afterwards that it would have been bad for Belgian football if Berchem (my local team) would have won the title.
But that is my petite histoire and some of the reasons my teeth gnashed a bit.
But apart from that one stolen title it is fair to say that Anderlecht has been THE team in Belgian football since the end of world war 2.
In fact Anderlecht only joined the top division just before the war in 1935-1936. And they won their first league title in 1946-1947. And since then….they won 33 league titles. I once heard that they win a league title every second year since they won their first. So it is the truth when one can say that they dominated football in Belgium completely.
Because in the other seasons when they haven’t won, they finished 20 times as runners up. And they never finished outside the top 6.
Apart from their 33 league titles they also won 9 Belgian cups and lost the final 3 times. They won the Belgian super cup 12 times and lost it 7 times. This is the Belgian version of the Charity Shield or Community Shield.
And they also have a glorious European past. They won the European cup winners cup twice. They won the Uefa cup once. And as you all know or should know they also lost one final in Europe. Yes it was against Arsenal. And that was my first real taste of Arsenal and the fact they beat the team we disliked in Belgium will have added to us visiting Highbury some nine years later when we came to London with our school.
But Anderlecht even won the European Super cup twice.
So if you want to talk about a big club in Belgium…Anderlecht is the name to remember.
They are one of the few teams (Club Brugge and Standard Liege the others) to have more than the local supporters.
They play in the too small Constant Vanden Stock stadium renamed after the father of the current president who manage to turn them from Belgium top team to a European top team for a while till the big money came flowing to other leagues the the Belgium league became unimportant. The stadium has a capacity of 21500 but for European matches this goes down to 19500. A stadium that gives an old English kind of atmosphere.
But the supporters are spoiled and want to see champagne football as they call it. If the team plays not up to their standards they will turn against their team. A bit spoiled one could say. But who wouldn’t be if you keep winning things.
So you will probably not see them parking the bus. as this goes against their nature and against their fans. Now I must say I don’t follow Belgian football that much so it could have changed but from what I can tell they are not really a team that will defend with 11 men around their penalty area. I have heard that they did try such a thing at PSG last CL campaign in Paris. But at home I don’t think they will do it that easily.
Anderlecht are currently leading the Jupiler League (name of the brewery that is the main sponsor of the league in Belgium) with 3 points more than Club Brugge. The only two teams that are likely to be involved in the league title this season.
Their current form is not that great for their standards. Two draws in a row in the league and a home defeat in the CL against Dortmund.
They do have a few young talents as their youth academy is usually good enough to produce at least one new player ready for the first team each season. Tielemans and Praet are the latest of them. Kompany and Lukaky are the more familiar names for people in the PL. Both came from Anderlecht at the start of their career.
One the better players this season is Steven Dufour who came back after an adventure in Portugal to the Belgium league. A hard working midfielder with a good pass. Proto is a good keeper usually. Deschacht is one of the long standing players at left back. Van den Borre played in the PL for a while at Portsmouth after his career in Italy didn’t work out as planned.
Matias Suarez is probably their best player in the attacking compartment of the team for the moment but he has had a long injury period behind him.
One final thing that has caught the eye when it comes to Anderlecht in the last years. Penalties. Now Anderlecht has been the Manchester United when it comes to penalties in Belgium. They have had far more of them than any other team. So teams who play Anderlecht almost find it natural to get a penalty against them. But since a few years there seem to be a curse on Anderlecht and penalties. They nowadays miss more penalties than the score from the spot.
Players fighting each other to take it and then…miss it. It happened just a few weeks ago again. In one season they missed 11 of the 17 penalties they got. I think they must have had the most dreadful penalty statistics of all teams in the world for the last seasons. So if they get a penalty, there is still hope.
It is one of the teams you love or hate in Belgium. I don’t do the hating but I do the disliking. The only thing I ask from Arsenal is to win this match. Just win it!
(Footnote – speaking of penalties today is the anniversary of the day when Pires and Henry tried a trick penalty against Man C but got it all wrong. Arsenal still won though).
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