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© 2018 Pitch'd Groundhopping

GROUND // Koning Boudewijnstadion/Stade Roi Baudouin - KBVB

And now for a piece of true Belgian history; the Stade Roi Baudouin or the Heizel as many people still like to call it. Although it has hosted club teams in the (recent) past, it's actually the national football stadium mainly used by the Belgian FA. Every year the cup final takes place there and most of the games of the Red Devils are being played there as well. Let's dive into its history.



Everything started in 1927 when the first stone was laid. We are in the top days of Belgian football (Belgium won the World Cup on the Olympics in 1920 and afterwards we were actively involved in many other football matters such as the first real World Cup. Since Belgium was celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 1930 this obviously needed to be celebrated with a true national stadium. By 1930 the Stade du Centenaire (Jubelstadion) was finished.



In 1946 it was decided a name change was needed and therefore the name became Stade du Heysel (Heizelstadion), named after the neighbourhood the stadium is located. As of 1954 the stadium became the host for the cup final in Belgium (only six finals have been played elsewhere since that year). As the years went by, the stadium was host for many important events in- and outside of football. Football related, the Stade du Heysel hosted several European finals (8 to be exact), one semi final on the European cup in 1972 and several games during the European tournament in 2000.




But years of neglect resulted in a serious disaster/drama in 1985. The European final between Juventus and Liverpool resulted in the well known Heysel Stadium disaster. We won't go too deep into what happened exactly as this is still a very sensitive subject in Belgium, England and Italy. It did open up eyes (together with a couple of other disasters during the 80s and early 90s) of several FAs and afterwards things changed in professional football. A bit to the extreme if you ask us, humble groundhoppers.



After years of debating and legal fights it was finally decided the Stade du Heysel had to undergo a facelift if it was ever to be used again. In 1995 the renovation was completed and the name changed into the current Stade Roi Baudouin (Koning Boudewijnstadion). Shortly after, when it became clear The Netherlands and Belgium would jointly host the European tournament in 2000, the stadium underwent another small renovation which was completed in 1998. Not much has changed in the past 21 years. The Memorial Van Damme is another big yearly event (athletics event) in this stadium and it is often criticised this combination (football and athletics) does not work in this stadium.



This also resulted in the recent debates. In 2015, when Belgium wanted to apply for the 2020 European tournament, a discussion was opened to demolish or replace the Stade Roi Baudouin by a completely new one on one of the parking lots of the current stadium. According to traditional Belgian rules there was a heated and long lasting discussion and in the end everything resulted in big delays, a lot of opposition, negative comments and also the dismissal of the award during the tournament in 2020. The plans for this new stadium were finally put in the fridge, most likely to never be opened again.




Very recently Royale Union Saint-Gilloise played their home games there for two years while their majestic Stade Joseph Mariën was being redeveloped. Not a good choice either as the stadium was way too big for the team and it's very difficult to create a good atmosphere there. Even more recently the Belgian FA announced this stadium is going to undergo yet another redevelopment in the near future.




You will have to forgive us the way we did this stadium. We were part of the celebrating KV Mechelen during/after their cup win against KAA Gent. But we're sure you'll forgive us.