Every groundhopper all over the world will confirm this... Belgium is rich with great stadiums, either abandoned, or still in use by old glory teams. But also by current top teams. We have visited quite some beauties the past two years. But there is one stadium in Belgium that stands out. One stadium that forms the Mekka of every groundhopper. One stadium being used by the team that proudly carries matricule number 1 in Belgium. This stadium is Den Bosuil, played in by Royal Antwerp FC.
'The Great Old' was officially founded in 1880 already by a couple of Englishmen studying in Antwerp. Officially the team was called Antwerp Athletic Club, combining rugby, tennis, cricket and football. It was only in 1887 there was an official football division called Antwerp Football Club. According to the books this team is the oldest football team in Belgium (with only in 1889 a second official competitor - Brussels Football Club), although some other teams claims otherwise. In 1892 Antwerp Athletic Club ceased to exist but the football team continued their activities. Even more, in 1895 they were the driving force behind the creation of the Belgian FA (UBSSA), and also the very first football competition. Unfortunately they saw FC Liégois win the first competition. It took The Great Old until 1929 to win the first championship.
In the beginning Antwerp played in yellow/black, only later to change into red/white (in between they even had pink). In 1900 a revolution took place in Antwerp. The newly founded Beerschot AC took over a lot of the Antwerp players and RAFC faced a couple of tough years. After WWI the successes in Antwerp started to come. Beerschot won the first championship as an Antwerp team and organized the Olympics in 1920 in their stadium. But Antwerp (earning the Royal title in 1920) also gained first successes. In 1923 they moved to the Bosuil, which was opened with a game between Belgium and England in front of 38.000 to 40.000 people. Throughout the 30s, 40s and 50s RAFC would remain an absolute top team in Belgium, winning several championships and their first Belgian cup. The 60s however proved to be a test for the team with bad results and relegations.
In the 70s and the 80s RAFC would return to their old status. all of this would climax to European successes in the late 80s and early 90s. The world got to know The Great Old mainly thanks to the Miracle of Vitosha. In a game against Vitosha Sofia Vitosha was leading 1 to 3 up until 1 minute before the end. In the extra time RAFC scored 3 times eliminating the Bulgarian team after all. In 1993 RAFC even reached the finals of the former UEFA Cup Winners' Cup losing to Parma in the majestic Wembley stadium. After this The Great Old started a dark era again. By the end of the 90s they relegated to second division again and since 2004 they stayed in second division facing a lot of financial problems, troubles with their stadium and bad results. Last year though the sun started to shine. Former Zulte-Waregem chairman became chairman at RAFC and invested a lot of money. The stadium was partly renovated and new players were attracted. From the start of the season RAFC knew what to do with the other teams and up until now they are leading second division. For the first time in over ten years they really have a chance to return to first division, something all fans in Belgium and teams in first division are looking forward to!
The stadium itself then... The Great Old wandered around for a few decades before ending up at Bosuil in 1923 with a majestic stadium.
1880 - 1893 Wilrycksche Plein (Kiel) 1893 - 1895 Transvaalstraat (Berchem) 1895 - 1897 Pitch next to Velodroom Zurenborg (Berchem) 1897 - 1903 Middenplein Velodroom Zurenborg (Berchem) 1903 - 1908 Kruisstraat (Kiel) 1908 - 1923 Broodstraat (Kiel)
The hell of Deurne(-North) has four grandstands with a very different history each.
Grandstand 1: Built in 1923, so one of the original pieces, and closed for two years between 2013 and 2015 for a big renovation. Grandstand 2: Built in 1923 as well. This is one of the most known and illuster grandstands all over the European continent. A pure beauty for the eye. Everything remembers to the great history of RAFC and the Red Devils games against The Netherlands. Grandstand 3: The Vic Mees grandstand. Originally this was a MASSIVE terracing reaching up higher than grandstand 2 (very impressive to see older pictures). This was broken down in 1997-1998. The new grandstand was opened in 2001 and often serves for families. Grandstand 4: The business seats. On this side there originally was a massive terracing as well. Broken down in 1991 to have the business seats built.
Between 1923 and 1977 the Bosuil was the home of the Red Devils with a maximum capacity at one point of 60.000 people. Since 1977 the Heysel was mainly used and after the drama of the Heysel in 1985 the Bosuil was inspected severely and got more and more negative feedback. Last week the Bosuil started to use new floodlights making it a stadium with more than 4 pillars. Quite unique view, but to be honest we're not a fan of the new floodlights.
Anecdote 1: RAFC won their first championship whilst not playing in Bosuil, but in the stadiums of Beerschot and Berchem due to internal conflicts. The actual title was won in a test match against Beerschot in the stadium of Racing Mechelen.