Leuven is mostly known for the student society, but this city in Flemish Brabant also has a rich football history. We visited the stadium Den Dreef during a game of the Belgian Red Flames, the national ladies team of Belgium, but Den Dreef is in fact the homeground of Oud-Heverlee Leuven. This rather new team is a fusion of several teams in and around Leuven to boost the high expectations that once lived within the city.
In 2002 Stade Leuven, Daring Club Leuven and Zwarte Duivels Oud-Heverlee decided to join forces and try to return to the highest leagues again after the great successes of the three teams in past decades. Oud-Heverlee Leuven is in fact a continuation of Zwarte Duivels Oud-Heverlee (or at least their matricule number was being used to form Oud-Heverlee Leuven). Zwarte Duivels Oud-Heverlee was formed in 1957 and since that time they slowly climbed up from the lowest regional leagues to third division in 2002. Unfortunately there is not much other information available about Zwarte Duivels Oud-Heverlee.
Most people in Leuven will in fact see the new OHL (as it is best known now) as the continuation of Stade Leuven and Daring Club Leuven. We'll share the detailed history of Daring Club Leuven in a separate surprise fotoshoot later ;-) but to summarize, this team was founded in 1922, quickly reached the national levels, merged with other teams in Leuven after WWII, had some successes, but relegated to the regional leagues again by 2002. The history is greater than this, but we'd like to keep this for our surprise.
The third team to be involved in the merge in 2002 was Stade Leuven. Originally founded in 1903 as Stade Louvaniste and making it the oldest team in Leuven. In 1909 already they reached the national leagues (second division) and kept playing there until a third division was created in 1926 and they relegated to that division. In 1931 they would return to their place in second division with a couple of intermezzos in third division where they met other teams out of Leuven. After WWII, when Daring Club Leuven underwent a lot of changes Stade Louvaniste made it to first division in 1949. It wouldn't last long however; the next season they would relegate again.
In 1953 they even relegated to third division and in 1958 even to fourth division where they stayed all throughout the 60s. In 1967 (about the time the revolution was started in Leuven to have Flanders Flemish instead of French), they changed their name to K Stade Leuven. But this didn't result in successes. In 1971 they would even relegate to the regional leagues. Stade Leuven quickly returned, but went up and down between third and fourth division in the 70s. The 80s would prove to be a switch between second and third division, but the 90s were a copy of the 70s. Stade Leuven would return finally to third division in 2000 and stayed there until the merge in 2002. It's a shame to see that the matricule number 18 of Stade Leuven wasn't used in the merge.
Den Dreef, homeground of OHL now, has always been the homeground of Stade Leuven. Or at least since 1905, two years after they first saw the daylights. This stadium only had some smaller grandstand (in banana shape - it's still visible now) and a lot of very nice terracing which is still visibile in their current set up. After the merge in 2002 it was decided OHL had to become the pride of the city and a lot of investments were made to create bigger grandstands. Two of them (the ones behind both goals) are actually placed in front of the still existing terracing. And the expectations became reality. After starting in third division in 2002, OHL played superb football every season and in 2005 this was rewarded with promotion to second division.
Star player of the team was the now late François Sterchele and he made sure OHL played top football in second division as well. In 2011 OHL became champion and promoted to first division, finally a team from Leuven in first division since Stade Leuven in 1950. The promise was made at that time that OHL would get a new stadium from the city if it would stay in first division for at least 5 years. Unfortunately they relegated to second division in 2014, but they returned to first division after only one season. Now they are facing relegation again. Looks like a new stadium won't be for the next couple of years.