Although soccer or "football" or whatever it is you want to call it isn't big in the USA it is still the world's game and Belgium, believe it or not, is part of the world.
Like most European countries (if not all), Belgium has a professional soccer league and although the calibre isn't as high as in England or Italy, its still a very entertaining and exciting league if you look past all the scandals and game fixing that seems to go on around here.
Since the country isn't too much bigger than my home state of New Jersey, its easy to get around the country and find a soccer game since there are 18 teams in the top league. If you're in Brussels, there is Anderlecht and also FC Brussels. Anderlecht are currently the national champions. There are also a couple of teams in Brugge, Gent and also the SE city of Liege (Standard Liege) where the American international Gooch Onyewu plays (but not for long!).
If you're in the country and interested in catching a game, just go to the link of the big Belgian sport magazine "Sport". You can find the upcoming games at: http://www.sport.be/fr/jupilerleague/0506/cover.html?comp=2304 Most clubs have official home pages and the bigger ones even have them in English.
The best thing about going to games in Belgium is that its affordable and the stadiums are small enough to allow you to always have a good seat.
If you need help navigating yourself around the Belgian soccer fields, let me know.
And don't forget to have a beer and a greasy burger and/or fries (frites) before the game. Its a tradition!
Equipment: All you need are some comfortable clothes to wear and perhaps a raincoat. It tends to rain lots in Belgium. Don't bring an umbrella because some grounds won't let you take it in. It could be a weapon, ya know!
This Belgian breed of horses wasn't doing to
well. At the end of the 20th centurie this
heavy build species of horse was declining
to 400 births a year.
They lost their function for agriculture and
for the industry round 1930.
The Belgian government decided to give
support for people who breed these horses ,
Palm , a belgian beer company who has the
horse as a symbol for their powerfull beer
decided to raise that amount if the horse
was a brown one (color vos - fox as we say)
Nowadays again about 1000 horses are
born each year. It is a joy to see them
at demonstrations. (but rare events)
The most spectacular are the races with a coach.
The one I saw went like this.
Every driver has 3 minutes to do a route
they choose their own. They get points for
every narrow passage they according
to the dificulty. They need to be true the finish
before the end of the 3 minutes , otherwise
they get disqualified.
For French and Dutch speaking people I recommand
having a look on the site mentioned under.
Some people travel just to watch sports events. For those who love soccer (so called in US) or football (so called in Europe), just click on the website link below and check when and where the competitions are held!
Equipment: A mighty good voice and a non aggresive attitude `-)
With teams like Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Liege and others, you are never far from good football in Belgium. The national football team is also one of the two things which unite Flanders and Wallonia (the other is the royal family) so there is generally great excitement at Heyzel or some other stadium.
Cycling is without doubt (next to soccer) the most popular sport in Belgium. I had the occasion to visit several disciplines of cycling. The "Tour the France" in Ghent
- the "Cycle cross championship" in Hooglede, the unique "Tour de Flanders" and not at least the "6 days cycling festival" in Ghent.
Equipment: As a non active cycler, just my camera
A yearly tradition in Flanders - the Waregem koerse - where "Le beau monde" meets each other and the Staple Chase champions meets aswell - the number one's in Europe - but this for different interests.
A copy of "Ascot" races in the UK
Try one of the many tours for cycle enthousiast like the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen), or the Ferynpijl, or Liége- Bastogne-Liége.
The Tour of Flanders is normally taking place the day before the professionals ride the race. In 2007 it was on the 7th of april. You could choose several distances from the entire tour (over 250 km), a 140 km tour with the all the climbs, or a short version of 75 km.
Tom managed to finish the 140 km and wasn't looking tired at all . See his picture taken on the steepest hill (de Muur, a 20% climb)
Equipment: Bring your own bicycle and helmet.
Small city between Gent and Brussels - but famous for the yearly Carneval parade.
It is also the town of Martens - a famous previous and first belgian printer (1473).
I visited this town several times - it was on a saturday - and the local markets were impressive ! But i had to come back, esp.for the Carneval atmosphere. And i did - see my reports on "Oilst"- see the second picture
Visit Waterloo and get initiated on ULM flying !
Waterloo is best known by the famous battle of Napoleon, but Waterloo is also famous by a ULM training center. Get high and have a wonderful overview on the city and the unknown abbey. Just marvelous
Equipment: Warm jacket, gloves and trust in the pilot who will lead you
The tour of Flanders is the most famous in Belgium and a warming up for the " The great Tour the France"
Look at the cycler taking a fresh breath before going on !
Furthermore i had the occasion to join the World Championship Cyclo Cross in Hooglede
this in Januari 2007. A dramatic country cross, but exiting till the end.
Equipment: For myself - a good camera and luck
Our National sports are football and cycling. Durring the season you'll find may games between different soccerteams. It might be nice to go and watch a game. It has a specific ambiance.
Cycling is also a famous sport to watch here in Belgium. We have some living legends among our people . Eddy Merx is the most know off all.
And lately everyone here is following womans tennis for the numbers 1 and 2 (Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters ) are Belgian ladies. The Diamond games in Antwerp are a firstclass tennistournament.
Belgium is famous for the classic tours in professional biking.
-The Tour de Flanders (Bruges-Ninove)
-West coast Tour (De Panne)
And bikers like :
-The one and only Eddy Merckx
-Peter Van Petegem
-Tom Boonen (winner in 2005/2006)
But this is my story of the Tour of Flanders - 90th edition - april 2006
I was ready for the grand and international tour.
Physically i was in top condition on April the 2nd./edition 2006.(BTW the ninetheenth tour.)
My leggs were warmed up - my blood pressure low.
Ready for the VIP treatment (very intoxicated persons) i went with some friends to the restaurant "Pupiter" in Kwaremont - had a great lunch and was lucky to enjoy the tour - on wide TV screens, Sporza Live
If there is one sport that defines the country - it will be cycling. And the Belgians do take their sport seriously. Tour de Flandres - or De Ronde van Vlaanderen - is one of the major European competitions. On Saturday amateurs have the opportunity to participate - by covering either 75km or 140 km. On Sunday is the actual race (from Brugge to Ninove) with scores of spectators along the cours, in the bars or home in front of telly.
The country might be generally flat, but the rolling hills are deceptive and give you quite a challenge, esp the stretches of old cobblestones. Be careful with the marking on the road so you don't end up on 140km itinerary (as happened to quite a lot of people this year).
There is also a special edition for women since 2004.
PS Even though you can enrol to participate on the day, ensure you have your accommodation lined up well in advance. You can check anywhere in the neighbourhood - Ninove, Ternat, Dilbeek, Lennik, Gooik, etc.
Equipment: racing bikes and mountain bikes. The weather is very fanciful this time of year so you have to be prepared for anything from hail and wind to clear sky & 20 degrees centigrade.
Cycling, next to football the most favourite sport in Belgium.
I saw this black/white painting somewhere next to the marketplace of Geraardsbergen.
It was the day for cycling tourism, on a saturday, one day before the profs started.
Believe me or not, but more than 14.999 bikers took part. Edition 2005 was a topic;
Belgium has many famous cyclists - no wonder with the flat Flanders encouraging them and when they go further in their sport, they can practice in the hilly Ardennes :-)))
You can rent bikes in most cities (especially close to the railway stations) and places like the Foret de Soignes outside Brussels or Damme outside Brugge are two tips for nice days out.
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