Since moving to Belgium I’ve made a concentrated effort to learn about and enjoy European Football. I must admit it took me a while to get over pansy players who dive compared to the rough and tough hockey players of the NHL. I’ve been slow to learn the ‘hard’ rules and still can’t clearly define what constitutes a “offside” call. Regardless of these small details I’ve come to enjoy watching football, especially since the Belgian National Team has been in action competing for a World Cup spot in 2014 taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Belgium’s national team has a long history that dates back to 1904 with their first official game against France. Since then, Belgium has earned itself a reputation as a strong second tier team. While they don’t often win major championships, they are a challenging team to meet during competition. The Red Devils had an excellent track record in the 1980’s and throughout the 90’s. Then, the team didn’t qualify for two consecutive World Cups, once in 2006 and then again in 2010. Belgians have been frustrated with the team’s progress but remained loyal and hopeful.
2011 offered a bright spot for the Red Devil’s chances to make it to the world stage once more. Young, hotshot Belgian footballers started to make a big name for themselves in the English Premier League. There’s Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany, Tottenham’s mid-fielder Moussa Dembélé, Everton’s mid-fielder Marouane Fellaini, and Chelsea’s temperamental forward Eden Hazard. Kevin de Bruyne, a hardworking ginger kid, is another favourite who has had two amazing performances in the past two games.
My personal favourite is forward Romelu Lukaku, a giant at 6’4″ with dreadlocks, who has been a phenomenon in the Belgian league since he was 16. When he started playing for Anderlecht at 16 he finished as the league’s top scorer. At 18 years old he was then bought by Chelsea, fulfilling his lifelong dream, but is currently on loan to West Bromwich Albion. To sum it up in two succinct words, he’s dreamy.
Recently, me and a couple of the boys went to the Belgium vs. Scotland game in Brussels. This was an important game for the Devils to win in order to keep their high ranking in their pool. Belgium stomped Scotland, who played like a bunch of wussies, with a score of 2-0. Seeing a game live really increased my interest in football and I would definitely go to another game. Sadly, the next one isn’t until March when Belgium will play Macedonia.
Since I’m finally beginning to understand football rules, club politics, and player gossip the game has become a nice substitute for watching hockey or CFL games at the pub. Plus, the atmosphere at the live game is so fun! People are dressed up, drinking beer, and feeling jolly. Then again, I haven’t witnessed a loss yet…
Is anyone else in Canada starting to warm up to European Football in light of the NHL lockout?