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GROUND // Hooiweg - KFC Itegem (lost ground)

We read it, said it, heard it, saw it, and wrote it so many times: the strength of a local club depends on its volunteers and youth. Take that away and you end up in a downward spiral. Like so many, the once so vibrant KFC Itegem ran out of fuel in the dead end street of local football.

It’s a sad and absurd sight. The goalposts that once brought happiness, tears, or a sudden catharsis for an unexpected late winning goal, are now buried in soil. They’re living a second life as a parking spot for horses. Quite an unexpected turn. But it makes sense: nowadays the lost ground of KFC Itegem belongs to a horsing organization.

Let’s rewind: 85 years ago FC Itegem was born. They were given matricule number 2151, making them older than the neighbouring bigger brother KSK Heist (registration number 2948). The first decades of their existence, the blue-white boys played the provincial leagues. The quest for a proper ground led the club through 4 locations. In the golden sixties they finally found their home: the Hooiweg.

The sixties were all good for FC Itegem. Not only did the club expand its ground with a proper stand, they also reached national football in 1969. A big achievement for a small village with just a few thousand inhabitants. But the dream didn’t last long. FC Itegem ended their first and only season in 4th tier next to last and relegated back to the provincial leagues.

During the seventies and eighties, FC Itegem found its place in Antwerp football: the blue-white boys were a solid team in 6th tier. Often fighting for, and winning promotion to the 5th league, Itegem were considered a very strong local club. All was good: the star players of RSC Anderlecht and SK Lierse delighted the small village with exhibition games, big crowds were attracted, and finances were stable. Although some high-riding neighbouring clubs - such as Heist Sportief and FC Heultje - attracted some of Itegem’s best youth players, the blue-whites developed a solid and fruitful youth academy resulting in a new training ground just around the corner.

The decline started by the end of the nineties. In ’96 and ’97 KFC Itegem relegated 2 years in a row, ending up in the lowest provincial tier. In the meantime some neighbouring clubs were skyrocketing, allowing them to give higher fees to players. For some years KFC Itegem tried to keep up, but this meant living outside their means. As a result the club started struggling financially, forcing them to move out of their ground at the Hooiweg. All teams, senior and youth, now played at the training grounds.

By 2012 the once so fruitful youth academy was running dry. Youngsters left the club, aiming at the neighbouring clubs. With very little club loyalty left, the team struggled. 3 volunteers couldn’t keep KFC Itegem alive. The blue-white boys played their last game on the 3rd of May, 2013. A 1-2 loss, with opponent Hezewijk scoring the late winner in the 95th minute. A sad ending for a beautiful club.


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