GROUND // Pierre Cornelisstadion - SC Eendracht Aalst

A couple of weeks ago we visited a game in Aalst between SC Eendracht Aalst and UR La Louvière-Centre. A game in tha play offs of the Belgian third division. The winner would be in a very good position to qualify for the renewed first amateur division (new third division in Belgium).

SC Eendracht Aalst won the first game in La Louvière with 1-3 and it looked like a done deal for the home game. Unfortunately the game ended in a disastrous 0-5 and Eendracht is doomed to go to second amateur division.

But let's go back to the start of this team. It all began in 1919, the year after WWI when Sport-Club Eendracht Aalst was founded by some war veterans who had played at Sporting Aalst and Steun Geeft Moed before the war. Both teams were quickly dissolved however. In 1926 they received matricule number 90 and in 1928 they moved to the current location in the Bredebaan where later the Pierre Cornelis stadium would be built. In 1932 they reached the national divisions for the first time and in 1936 they promoted to second division. It wouldn't take long before SC Eendracht Aalst promoted to first division (in 1939). In the meantime the stadium was built. In 1946 Pierre Cornelis (chairman for 16 years) died and the team decided to rename their stadium to honour him. In 1947 the team started to go down the divisions. First to second division and in 1952 to third division. during almost three decades the team went up and down between second, third and even fourth division.

This all changed when Paul Van Himst joined the team in the autumn of his career. Thanks to him the team promoted to second division again in 1977. All throughout the 80s Aalst fought to get into first division again but often stranded in the play offs. Finally they got back to first division in 1991. After a short stay in second division again, the golden 90s finally started. Young coach Jan Ceulemans had star players such as Godwin Okpara and Gilles De Bilde and the team even made it to the European cups.

But these successes came with a cost. In the start of the new millennium the debts where that high KSC Eendracht Aalst was looking for a merger with Sporting Lokeren (which fell through in the end) and finally had to file for bankruptcy in 2002. The team was able to save the matricule number but had to restart in third division and changed their name into VC Eendracht Aalst 2002. But this wasn't the end.

A few years later there were plans to merge with the neighbouring AA Gent. This led to frustrations amongst the fans and after a tough year the deal fell through and Eendracht relegated to fourth division (for the first time in over 40 years!). After only one year they returned to third division. The next years they would often fight for promotion to second division but they only managed to do so in 2011. One year later they changed the name back into SC Eendracht Aalst. Finally in 2015 they relegated back to third division and now they just missed promotion to the renewed first amateur division.

It is a shame to see that the old and famous stands have been torn down. It did see some great players in the course of history. The biggest names are Geoffrey Claeys, Gilles De Bilde, Dries Mertens, Harold Meyssen, David Paas, Nico Vaesen, Yves Vanderhaeghe, Philippe Vande Walle, Paul Van Himst, Vladan Kujovic, Edi Krncevic, Florian Urban, Godwin Okpara and Juan Lozano.

Anecdote 1: In 1950 player Miel De Buck suffered a stomach injury in a game against White Star and died from it a month later.

Anecdote 2: The Ferrera family is well known in the Belgian football scene and all of them have a history at Eendracht Aalst. The three brothers Francisco Ferrera, Emilio Ferrera and Manu Ferrera played in the A team. In fact Francisco's son Yannick Ferrera is the only one never to have played or coached at Eendracht. Manu Ferrera even was coach at Eendracht for a while.

Anecdote 3: Two of the biggest star players (after Paul Van Himst of course) had a rather dark history after their time at SC Eendracht Aalst. Gilles De Bilde was convicted for domestic violence and Godwin Okpara is convicted for raping a minor girl. Sad histories...