It’s been a typical week in the world of Belgian football, both on and off the field. There’s been lots of talk about red cards and suspensions, one player who wants to be a ‘Red Devil’, another who seems a little unsure about his future and another who is seen as a saviour for his club.
Let’s start with the Jupiler Pro League. The ‘classic’ league is winding down ahead of the playoffs – there is just one round of games left to be played but the decisions about which teams play in which series of the playoffs have all been made. You could be excused, therefore, for thinking that perhaps some teams did not give 100% at the weekend.
The headline news was Zulte Waregem’s first defeat after an unbeaten run of 17 games. They faced a Club Brugge side that is finally playing decent football and has a strong midfield in Ryan Donk, Vadis Odjidja and Victor Vasquez. It would be no surprise if Everton were back in for Vadis in the summer. In the event, Club Brugge won 2-1 at Zulte Waregem, with Carlos Bacca collecting his 20th goal of the season and Eidur Gudjohnsen getting his second for Club Brugge – even though it was clearly offside.
The other news was the return of Matias Suarez for Anderlecht. He just had 20 minutes against KV Mechelen but the fans rally do love the boy and feel that he will be the one to ensure another title for the Brussels club. It looks like Suarez will be eased back into the team – after being ‘out’ since May 2012 – and he might have to accept another night on the bench when Anderlecht wind up their ‘classic’ season at Gent. John Van den Brom looked relieved when Milan Jovanovic’s best friend Tom de Sutter scored the goal that ensured the 1.5 points against Mechelen.
Over at Leuven, Standard’s young striker Imoh Ezekiel scored after just 13 seconds and Les Rouches went on to win 4-0 despite their captain Jelle Van Damme being dismissed for a late tackle on substitute Thomas Azevedo. What made it worse for Van Damme was his declaration that he wanted a (fifth) yellow card so he could be fully available for the playoffs and that Azevedo was unable to continue after just three minutes on the pitch. Van Damme could get a three match suspension and his team-mate Paul-Jose M’Poku is likely to be suspended too – based on video evidence – for his elbow in the face of Leuven’s Gunther Vanaudenaerde.
As a last word on the JPL, Beerschot lost 3-2 at Waasland-Beveren and now have to play bottom club Cercle Brugge five times – yes, five times – in the so-called Playoffs 3 (PO3). In fact it’s six times as the teams will meet in the classic league next Saturday! It was all too much for the Beerschot travelling faithful who destroyed a few hundred seats in disgust. Worse was to come as on Monday, the club went to court to ask for protection against their creditors. It’s one of life’s mysteries that Belgium’s second city, Antwerp, has had so many problems – in regard to football – in the past 20 years.
Also off the pitch, Club Brugge’s out-of-favour striker Meme Tchité clarified on TV that he was not demanding to be selected by Belgium but that he was available for selection if the FA agreed that he was indeed ‘Belgian’. Tchite’s background is somewhat confused as in the past FIFA has said he has played for Burundi (although he denies that) and he has also claimed Rwandan and now Belgian nationality. Tchite’s also unhappy as he claims that Club Brugge have been trying to sell him to Russian and Chinese clubs without bothering to talk to him. Strangely, some Standard fans would welcome him back.
It was a reasonable week for Belgians abroad. Romelu Lukaku scored his 13th goal in the Premier League this season. That makes him the leading goalscorer under the age of 20 in the ‘big five’ leagues. Christian Benteke also scored, as did Eden Hazard who came on as a substitute and changed the course of the game in the Manchester United-Chelsea cup-tie. Jan Vertonghen had every reason to feel blue as he finished on the losing side for Spurs at Liverpool despite scoring twice. Not bad for a defender. Over in the Netherlands, West Brom’s forgotten man Yassine El Ghanassy got a game, replacing a player who missed the team-talk, and promptly got a goal and an assist in Heerenveen’s surprise defeat of leaders PSV.
It wasn’t all sunshine and flowers for the Belgians though.Everton powerhouse Marouane Fellaini was substituted and booed off the field as the Toffee men went down 3-0 at home to Wigan. The fans felt he was not giving 100% and Big Mo cancelled an autograph-signing session the next day. He’s been linked to Chelsea for a long time and his buyout clause will be down to £22 million in the summer so watch this space. Over in Russia, Terek Grozny announced that they would not be against Jonathan Legear leaving the club. And again, strangely, some Anderlecht fans would welcome him back.