A couple weeks ago we visited Olympic Charleroi in their game against RWDM. We had already visited quite a lot in the neighbourhood of Charleroi but for some reason Olympic remained on our to do list. The Stade de la Neuville is an absolute must visit in the groundhopper scene and is rightfully considered to be one of the most beautiful stadiums in Belgium still in use in the national leagues.
Olympic started about seven years after the very closeby Charleroi Sporting Club (whom plays in first division and is the leading team in Charleroi), in 1911 as Olympic Club Caroloregian Lodelinsart. Only three years later they already changed the name into the famous Olympic Club de Charleroi. An almost immediate success, because after WWI it wouldn't take long before Olympic reached the national divisions for the first time. In 1926 they hit third division and started a long streak there before they promoted to second division in 1936. Only for one year though as they promoted to first division in their first year in second division.
And the dream still wasn't over. Royal Olympic Club de Charleroi managed to continue the good results and in 1947 they had their best result ever - second place, only two points behind champion RSC Anderlechtois. Needless to say back then ROCC was the leading team in Charleroi. It wasn't until one year later before Charleroi SC joined ROCC in first division. Apart from one year ROCC managed to stay in first division until 1963.
For almost 20 years ROCC played in second division. There were two seasons where they briefly returned to first division for one year. But in 1981 they had to take one step down again - third division. In the meantime the name was changed for some strange reason into Royal Olympic Club de Montignies-sur-Sambre (this happened in 1972). Luckily ten years later they changed back into ROCC.
The 80s were rough for the team. After having relegated to third division after a streak of over 50 years in the top two divisions ROCC even had to go to fourth division in 1984. Two years later les Dogues (as they are being called) promoted back to third division, where they would stay until 2006 (with one second division try in 1996). But the new millennium also meant a lot of changes for ROCC. In 2000 ROCC merged with RA Marchienne to become Royal Olympic Club de Charleroi-Marchienne.
RA Marchiennoise des Sports was founded in 1922 as Cercle des Sports Marchienne-Monceau and in the 30s they played third division - for a number of years together with the neighbours ROCC and RCSC. In 1940 they unofficially merged with Etoile Sportive Moncelloise to become Associations Marchiennoise des Sports. In 1950 they wanted to merge again - this time with the only two years before created Union Polonaise Marchienne to become Amicale Marchiennoise des Sports, but ROCC resisted against the merger and the deal fell through.
RA Marchienne relegated back to the regional leagues in 1950, but in 1959 they would return. This time in fourth division. In 1967 they even managed to go back to third division, but the story was short. In 1970 they returned to fourth division and in 1973 they left the national leagues. During the 70s RA Marchienne had another good streak though. In 1974 they returned already and in 1977 third division welcomed them again. Again it was a short story to be told. 1980 - back to fourth division and 1982 - back to the regional leagues. Between 1984 and 1992 and then again between 1994 and 2000 the team played the national fourth division before merging with ROCC. Dante and Toni Brogni as well as Thierry Hazard (father of Eden Hazard) all have a history at RA Marchienne.
Back to ROCC. After the period in third division they did have another streak in second division, though a short one. In 2007 they promoted to second division but in 2009 it was finally over. That's the year they had to go back to third division and when they started to have more problems. By 2011 ROCC struggled with a lot of financial problems and at the end of 2011 they were even declared bankrupt. Luckily for the team and us groundhoppers the team was saved in last instance, but in 2014 they again faced financial problems. Due to this the team was put back to the top regional league.
These days they seem to have recovered. After only one year ROCC was back in the national leagues and in 2016 they also returned to the old famous name of Royal Olympic Club de Charleroi.
Anecdote: In 1914 and 1919 the team discontinued their membership of the Belgian FA. The second time they did that, they joined the Wallonian FA. After the dismissal of that FA the team joined the Belgian FA again in 1921.
Since 1922 ROCC has been playing at the Stade de la Neuville and it definitely shows all of the history and great first and second division football of back in the days. After several renovations the stadium went into decay and in 2008 it was decided to break down one side of the wonderful terracing unfortunately. There still is one small piece remaining. Luckily all of the rest is still there to be enjoyed. Apart from a couple of games in second division in 2007 the team never left the stadium. In four years time the team will be able to celebrate a centennial... And we hope to be there again to join the festivities!