Non-league teams usually play on uneven grounds without stands around the pitch. De Sjarels and FC Beuckie, two clubs from the KVDV (Kempisch Voetbal Door Vriendenclubs, a local league), tend to differ. The two teams from Westmalle play their games in the intriguing Mintjens Arena.
The Mintjens Arena was originally built by the Westmalle based Mintjens furniture factory to accommodate the company’s football team: FC Karel Mintjens. Karel was the company’s manager. He ran the factory together with his two brothers Jules and Frans Mintjens. Frans used to be a professional cyclist who was in Eddy Merkcx’s team. The Mintjens family's outstanding sporting achievements explain their love of sport. We believe they started building the Mintjens Arena in the seventies. The complex consists of football grounds, tennis courts and an indoor hall.
FC Karel Mintjens never joined the Belgian FA and thus never received a matricule number. The factory’s team always played in local leagues but did so on a splendid pitch. The ground of FC Karel Mintjens was widely acclaimed for its mint condition. This explains why R Antwerp FC, RSC Anderlecht and Feyenoord regularly used the arena for pre-season games in the nineties. Manager Paul Van Himst settled with his 1994 Belgian national team for a training camp at the Westmalle grounds.
One week before R Antwerp FC played the 1993 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final, they played a friendly against FC Karel Mintjens in Westmalle. Surprisingly, Antwerp lost the game 2-1. A few days later, the Great Old switched the Mintjens Arena for Wembley, where they lost a second time. Parma beat Antwerp 3-1 and took the cup back to Italy.
The Mintjens family is closely associated with R Antwerp FC. The Great Old play their games at De Bosuil, which is currently being rebuilt by Paul Gheysens. However, the grounds are owned by the Mintjens family which led to some problems earlier. After all, nothing may be demolished on the grounds of the Bosuil without Mintjens' permission.
The Mintjens Arena complex is currently ran by Play & Sport, another company with strong R Antwerp FC ties. Play & Sport originally started out as Antwerp Diamonds, which was in fact a RAFC football academy. But Play & Sport offers a broad range of sports facilities, of which football is just a small part. In fact, we heard some rumours about the Karel Mintjes football pitch being replaced by padel courts. Let’s hope these gossips are not true!