Tonight, second division leaders Charleroi play second-place Eupen, with 11,000 fans expected at the Stade du Pays de Charleroi. While Charleroi have won their last three games, Eupen have not won any of their matches in that period. So although Eupen have been leading the league for months, they now find themselves in the role of underdogs.
Although feelings about Abbas Bayat, recently named one of the five most controversial presidents in football, run high (he’s sacked 20 coaches so far), all demonstrations, pro-Ultras and anti-Bayat have been cancelled. This is in view of the tragic accident in Switzerland where many people lost their lives.
Gueye Moussa, the league’s leading scorer, is out injured. Charleroi’s French striker Harlem Gnohéré is proving an adequate replacement. Brazilian midfielder Ederson, ex Genk, is the captain and perhaps best known of the current squad. Charleroi, along with Eupen were relegated last season.
Eupen, from the German-speaking region of Belgium were only in the first division for one season. That was under Italian ‘management’ but now there’s been a total changeover: 18 players left the club in July and 20 new ones were crated in under the new ‘German’ management. Interestingly, the club’s debts have recently been paid off by Luciano D’Onofrio. A recent article in Sport/Foot magazine argued that Lucky Luciano, well known in Wallonia and all points south, could invest heavily in the club – in the old ‘Beveren’ style of things – if the club is promoted.
Behind Eupen in the league are Oostende, boosted by some vital goals from Yohan Brouckaert, and Waasland-Beveren. The latter club grew from the ashes of Beveren, made famous – outside of Belgium – for being an Arsenal feeder club and occasionally fielding a team of 11 Ivory Coast players; including one Yaya Touré. They now have Tomasz Radzinski leading the line.
Rather off the pace now are Manchester United feeder club Royal Antwerp, the oldest club in Belgium but struggling to regain first division status. Antwerp, now under new management, are 20 points behind Charleroi; even with the strange rules governing participation in the playoffs, they have no chance of gaining promotion.
Charleroi, played 26, 58 points; Eupen, p26, 55 points; Oostende, p26, 52 points; Waasland-Beveren, p27, 52 points; Lommel, p26, 43 points; Royal Antwerp, p26, 38 points; White Star Woluwe, p26, 37 points.