Every once in a while we come across pure beauty. Sometimes we have to drive hundreds of miles, but sometimes beauty can be found in our own backyards.
Since the three of us all are from Mechelen, we are blessed with having two great teams and two great stadiums in our lovely city. Earlier we visited KV Mechelen, just before the (in)famous grandstand was broken down to be rebuilt. Recently we also visited RC Mechelen. The rivalry between these two teams is well known, even far outside the Belgian borders. That's what makes our groundhopping team so special, as we are a mix of fans of both teams... living in peace next to each other.
But what's even more special is the fact that there is a great possibility the Stadium Oscar Van Kesbeeck will be torn down in a few years time. This all has to do with the recent events RC Mechelen underwent. The stadium was first built in 1923, but it was heavily modernised in 1948, after a big fire in 1947 which destroyed the complete grandstand. Ever since Stadium Oscar Van Kesbeeck is the hell of Mechelen-Noord. Between 1975 and 1985 the areas behind the goals were sold changing the stadium from an oval stadium into a rectangle, losing a lot of terracing. Before 1923 RC Mechelen had to move quite a lot, but they managed to stay in Mechelen-Noord all this time. The team was founded in 1904, just a few months before KV Mechelen. It's one of those teams in Belgium that takes great pride in their matricule number, 24.
In 1904 a few students created the team Racing Club de Malines but they only played unofficial games on the fields of the military in Mechelen. The first real pitch they regularly used was property of FC Mechelen (later KV Mechelen), and was located in the forest of Kauwendaal. These days it's a small lake. In 1905 they started playing real matches and Oscar Van Kesbeeck was elected as the first president of the team. In 1906 the finally managed to have their own pitch, which nowadays is a swimming pool. Due to the location and the neighbourhood, RC Mechelen became the favorite team of the working class.
In 1906 the famous green-white colors were defined. The same year they became a member of the UBSSA and in 1907 they started playing in competition in second division. Pretty soon, in 1910 the promoted to first division. The financiel issues RC Mechelen has nowadays, were causing frustration from the very beginning in fact. In 1910 the first financial problems started, but Oscar Van Kesbeeck saved the team. Between 1909 and 1918 the team had to move to another pitch in the neighbourhood. From 1918 until 1923 they moved back to the previous field, where in the meantime that swimming pool was built. It was in 1923 the finally moved to the area where they are now...
The name was changed in 1929 into Racing Club de Maines Société Royale, only to be changed again in 1937 into Racing Club Mechelen Koninklijke Maatschappij. All these years the team played in first and second division and often had great results as well. After WWII they had their best results, often ending the season in the top three of first division, all thanks to great players like Rik De Saedeleer, later also the best football commentator Belgium has ever known. In 1957 the team changed their name into their current one; KRC Mechelen, but sadly enough this was also the end of a great period. They relegated to second division and in 1960 even to third division. All these years they switched between second and third, with a final appearance in first division in 1975 and in 1988. In 1994 they relegated back to third division.
They often had to fight hard and the team missed promotion to second division quite regularly, but somehow they always failed in the last phase of the competition or in the play-offs. In order to go back to second division RC Mechelen tried everything. They even attracted Georgian investors (in the 90s) and Mexican investors (in the nillies), both ending in big problems and financial issues for the team. Strong as the team is, they always managed to come back in full force. But they couldn't avoid relegation to fourth division in 2010. Luckily this lasted only one season and in a few years time they finally got what they deserved... Promotion to second division in 2014.
But the joy didn't last long as the long financial investments started to haunt the team and the financial problems became to big to be solved. A lot of players left the team and RC Mechelen was forced to finish the season in second division with only youth players. After a great start, they relegated back to third division and during the complete season it was unclear if the team could even continue to exist. At the end of the season a solution was found, but this came with a big price. The new investor became owner of the grounds and plans were made to tear down the stadium in 2018-2019, making the team move for the first time in 96 years! Up until now no-one is sure about what exactly is going to happen.
We sincerely hope RC Mechelen will come back again as a strong team, with great fans, all together in the majestic Stadium Oscar Van Kesbeeck. Because... Waar een wil is, is een weg!