We're staying in the Belgian first division for a while. This time we travel to the other side of the country. In the West Flemish Waregem there is a "merger" fighting against relegation as we speak. But there seems to be hope for the future.
In that area of West Flanders there are a lot of teams very close to each other. Roeselare and Kortrijk are very closeby and in between the villages all have their own quite nice teams. Even Mouscron and Lille in France are not that far away. And all of them have a long football history. Waregem is no different.
Union de la Lys Vive Saint-Eloi Waereghem was the first one in 1905. But they only lasted for three years. Two teams followed that example in 1912. Voetbal Vereeniging Waereghem was a bit quicker and lasted a bit longer - although it was only one year - than Waereghem Football Club. The latter was only active for three months. After that, the people from Waregem had to wait until 1921 when Sporting Club de Waereghem made their appearance in the Belgian FA. They already existed, presumably since shortly after WWI. But in 1923 it was over for them as well.
In 1925 it would really kick off for Waregem. Waereghem Sportif started off and would change their name into Football Club Waereghem Sportief in 1935. From the very beginning they played in Het Leeuwken (The Small Lion). Sadly enough nothing remains where the stadium used to be. The first years Football Club Waereghem Sportief spent in the top regional league in West Flanders and in 1932 the team would promote to the national division. Without success, as in 1934 they relegated again.
Throughout the years Football Club Waereghem Sportief would get some direct competition. Red Star Waereghem joined the party in 1928. They've always played on a pitch near the Vijfseweg, but that stadium too completely disappeared and nothing remembers of the good old days. Red Star would never reach the national divisions. Instead they mostly played the top regional league in West Flanders and the second regional division. Very quickly both clubs realised only one big team in Waregem would survive. Sportief and Red Star merged in 1946, creating Sportvereeniging Waregem. Both matricule numbers disappeared as rules back then prescribed a new matricule number for any merger.
As early as 1951, the name was changed into Koninklijk Sportvereniging Waregem and that's how the team would be known as for a very long time. Ever since, the nickname Essevee started living its own life as well. In 1948 the team would reach the national divisions, the third division at that time. This is the same level as Sportief some years before. But this time Essevee would never go back to the regional leagues again. In the contrary: apart from two years in the fourth division, Koninklijk Sportvereniging Waregem would stay in that third division for a number of years.
But the 60s were golden. In 1963 Essevee promoted to the second division and in 1966 already first division followed. Apart from the 72/73 season, 'de Boeren' (the Farmers) would stay in first division until 1994. Occasionally they had to avoid relegation, but there were huge successes as well. KSV Waregem won the cup in 1974 and were cup finalist in 1982. Essevee ended fourth in the competition a couple of times and all of that resulted in five years in Europe. In 1985/86 they even managed to reach the semi finals of the UEFA Cup.
Since 1994 'de Boeren' would have a rough time. Financial problems started and relegations followed. In 1999 they even went back as low as the fourth national division. All due to those financial worries. The end would come in 2001, when KSV Waregem ceased to exist. People often talk about a merger happening, but officially there was none. Essevee disappeared and the neighbouring Zultse VV transformed. Zultse VV, being a team from East Flanders, would officially become Sportvereniging Zulte-Waregem and move to West Flanders. Even though the registered office would still be in East Flanders. Later on, the dash in the name disappeared.
Ever since, the team and the fans have a brighter view on the future. As a new team, Essevee would start in the third division where Zultse VV had ended. The first year they won the league and promoted. In 2005 first division followed again. Up to this day SV Zulte Waregem are still playing there. And again they had some highlights. In 2006 and 2017 they won the cup, being a cup finalist in 2014. In 2013 they were vice champion and all of that resulted again in four years of European football. Although the absolute peak of the 80s wasn't yet reached.
Ofcourse a club with such history has to have a modern stadium. The Regenboogstadion (Rainbow Stadium) was officially inaugurated in 1957 with the World Cup cycling. The winner always receives the rainbow jersey. The bridge next to the stadium remembers of those days as it was intentionally built for that world cup. The cyclers always have to go via a long straight road before they enter the stadium.
Ever since, the stadium underwent a lot of changes. Especially after the 80s successes and 90s problems, the stadium changed drastically. Almost nothing remembers to the old stadium which most groundhoppers would adore and fantasise about. Almost. Because there still is a small piece of standing area / terracing from back in the days. But you need to look very carefully to find it.
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