KV Kortrijk 1 v 1 Genk (16.08.2014)
Football in August is great isn’t it? It’s even better though when the sun is shining, and the club you’re visiting happens to have its own equivalent to a beer garden, and openly encourages you to enjoy more than just a few beers from the comfort of your seat for the whole 90 minutes whilst watching top flight football! No the Premier League haven’t finally embraced European football culture, this is Belgium. Welcome to the Guldensporenstadion, home of KV Kortrijk and the appropriately beer sponsored Jupiler Pro League!
KV Kortrijk (pronounced Cor-tray) is one of the smaller Belgian top flight clubs and the 9,400 capacity stadium has a real lower league feel to it which I have to say is a major plus point. I suppose you could liken the ground to Brentford’s Griffin Park, and although it’s not easy to explain, this football club has a really good vibe to it, is full of character, and has a general feel of a place that welcomes you in with open arms.
The stadium is located about a 15 minute walk from the train station and town centre, and is sandwiched between a main road and a railway line. As such it really only has two main entrance points to the four stands. After a quick walk around the accessible sides of the ground there was no sign of a ticket office, a club shop or anything else you would expect to see outside a stadium on a match day. As is often the case on foreign shores, stadium security isn’t quite as tight as it is in the UK, and just over two hours before the game I turned up at the stadium to see what the ticket situation was like. The place was deserted, and the opportunity to walk through an unmanned side gate into the stadium was too good to turn down.
After walking up the entire length of the main VIP stand, and then onto pitch side in front of the home terrace, I would have been out onto the playing surface if it wasn’t for the water sprinklers giving the place a soaking!
Continuing on past Tribune 1 – the terraced area that houses the Kortrijk ultras – you reach the aforementioned beer garden area. When I say beer garden area I basically mean a large open space behind the stand with loads of mobile bars selling different beers adjacent to an immaculate training pitch. This area also includes the club shop and a number of food stands and is a great place to soak up the rays and enjoy a drink before the game. The only problem was I was 45 minutes too early, and the ground was yet to open up to the public. The steward manning the gates that weren’t actually open yet looked completely bewildered as I asked him if I could leave the ground!
With a name like the ‘Guldensporenstadion’, you could be forgiven for thinking a random Scottish influence would pop up somewhere, but thankfully there wasn’t a kilted Scotsman with an oversized golden sporran in sight, and the true meaning behind the stadium name links back to the Battle of the Golden Spurs which took place in Kortrijk in 1302. But that’s enough history for my liking, and I’ll move back onto the football!
On first impression Kortrijk is quiet, sleepy town, that comes alive about 90 minutes before kick off as supporters decked out in red and white scarves descend on the streets surrounding the Guldensporenstadion. Although only a small ground, tickets were readily available and go on sale 90 minutes before kick off from either of the two small white huts on Mooselsestraat (see photo right). Tickets range from 15-22 euros depending on where you want to sit or stand.
If you wander down Mooselsestraat back away from the ground there are a couple of bars to enjoy a pre match drink. But if the sun is shining you’re best off getting into the ground early and sampling the ‘beer garden’ area which opens up just over 90 minutes before kick-off and is located just beyond the entry turnstiles on Mooselsestraat. A ½ pint inside the ground costs 1,70 euros and can be bought by pre-paying for beer vouchers from the two kiosks inside the main indoor bar area.
The game was a cracker and both sides adopted an attacking approach which was great for the neutrals, but maybe not the ultras who were packed into the small covered terrace behind the goal. There were plenty of half chances for both sides and the Kortrijk Ultras did their best to make a couple of half-hearted penalty shouts from the players seem like absolute ‘stone-wallers’!
Cumulonimbus o’clock at the Guldensporenstadion….
Kortrijk took the lead on 29’ after a deep cross aimed at the far post caught Genk keeper Bizot off guard. Although he initially caught the ball cleanly he landed awkwardly falling back into his own goal, collided with the post and dropped the ball over the line. A somewhat comedy keeper moment that was greeted with a combination of jubilant cheers and sarcastic jeers as the ultras celebrated a Genk gift!
In the second half Genk began to get a stranglehold on the game and deservedly equalised in the 64’ through Mboyo who headed in from close range.
Both teams created further chances to win the game, but as a football nomad with no allegiances either way, it was just a perfect evening to be sat in the warm sunshine enjoying a few cold ones in your seat watching football at a club that felt like a home from home. It’s a tough life, and my afternoon at KV Kortrijk will live long in the memory.
Some other pictures from KVK:
‘Patrick’ a forgotten sports brand from yesteryear seems to have found its niche in Belgium – sponsoring the match officials…
The irony of the ‘Bruno’ sponsor on the back of the Genk player shorts…only visible when a player bends over….