After we witnessed RAQM-RWDM a couple of weeks back, we immediately drove to the neighbouring La Louvière to witness the beauty of Stade du Tivoli. The teams playing there (or having played there) have a great history, much like the stadium itself. Currently it's the home ground of UR La Louvière Centre, but it was used most of the time by RAA Louviéroise. A team unfortunately not existing anymore now.
The city of La Louvière has almost always been dominated by two teams; RAA Louviéroise and URS du Centre. The first one usually took pride in the title of 'best team in the city'. Football in La Louvière started in 1906 with Union Sportive Louviéroise and Central Sportif Club. By 1910 the second team didn't exist anymore, but US Louviéroise changed its name into Football Club Louviéroise. Unfortunately two years later that team ceased activities as well. In December 1912 then Association Athlétique Louviéroise was founded, the team we all got to know in first division not even that long ago. In 1926 they received matricule number 93 and in 1937 the team name became RAAL (Royal Association Athlétique Louviéroise). It was also the same year when they first reached the national division, third division at that time.
Apart from a few season in fourth division, they would mostly play in third division up until the end of the 60s. In 1969 they won fourth division and in 1970 they won third division, giving them access to second division for the very first time. A golden era would start for RAAL. They would go back to third division for one year, but not long after that they gained promotion to first division for the very first time ever. This was in 1975, only two years after they started playing in this Stade du Tivoli.
The successes wouldn't last long though and RAAL would go up and down between first and second division up until 1979. In 1984 they even had to return to third division where they stayed until 1993. A second golden era started. In 1993 they promoted back to second division and after 6 years of hard work they finally returned to first division. Usually they fought against relegation, but in 2003 they did manage to win the Belgian cup, one of the biggest achievements they managed to reach. But then dark clouds started to appear in the skies of La Louvière.
After a first bribery scandal in 1976 (the case Jurion, where RAAL tried to bribe Berchem players via RAAL coach Jef Jurion) they now were involved in a second bribery scandal; the Zheyun Ye case. Former Red Devils goalie and coach at the time Gilbert Bodart was one of the main figures in this case. At the end of the season they were punished by the Belgian FA to a relegation to third division, so it was back to square one for RAAL.
For three years they competed in third division, but the financial struggle became to much to bear and in 2009 they had to file for bankruptcy. That year RAAL decided to unofficially merge with RACS Couillet (in Charleroi - matricule number 94). Matricule number 93 disappeared. The "new" team (Football Couillet-La Louvière) moved to Stade du Tivoli and filled in the gap RAAL left. That spot was in fourth division after the relegation of RAAL and the position of RACS Couillet at that time. The symbol of the wolf was added to the logo and the nickname changed to "les loups", derived from the RAAL nickname. It never became a real success story and in 2011 everything changed again in Charleroi and La Louvière. Football Couillet-La Louvière moved back to Charleroi and became FC Charleroi (for the rest of that history, we'd like to refer to our visit to Stade du Fiestaux earlier) and the second team in La Louvière moved to Stade du Tivoli changing its name into UR La Louvière Centre.
For UR La Louvière Centre it all started in 1922 as Union Sportive du Centre. In 1931 they first reached the national divisions (third) and they improved their results year by year. In 1935 they won third division and promoted to second division. In 1937 they achieved their best result, a second place. But during WWII things took a turn for the worse and in 1946 they relegated back to third division. They would return but due to bad results and a reformation of the Belgian football structure they relegated to fourth division in 1952. One year later they have had to go back to the top regional league, for one season only. For ten years straight US du Centre played in third and fourth division.
All throughout the 60s they fought to go back to the national leagues, which they gained in 1976. After a short return to the regional leagues they came back for a longer period in 1980. This lasted up until 1988 (a good run in the 80s), but the 90s were less successful. They mostly played in the top regional league, but had to face the second regional division as well in 1997. But the struggle paid off. In 2001 they came back to fourth division and in 2008 they even could return to third division. Since that year they moved away from their Stade Raymond Dienne to play in Stade du Tivoli and for a first time in a very long period they faced RAAL again in the same division. At the end of that season RAAL disappeared and URS du Centre kind of took over that position. In 2011 it even became official when Football Couillet-La Louvière moved out and URS du Centre changed their name into UR La Louvière Centre, becoming the unofficial successor of RAAL. Up until this day they still play in third division.
A lot of great names passed by in the city. Currently Tibor Balog is the head coach of UR La Louvière Centre, but RAAL saw names like Assou-Ekotto, Alain Bettagno, Domenico Olivieri, Gunther Van Handenhoven, Ishiaku, Klukowski, Marius Mitu, Peter Odemwingie, Oguchi Onyewu, Silvio Proto, Cedric Roussel, Enzo Scifo, Thierry Siquet, Alan Haydock, Mark Talbut, Nordin Jbari, Karagiannis, Missé-Missé, Jean Cornelis, Jef Jurion and many many others.
Stade du Tivoli is a great stadium to visit. A beautiful grandstand with oldschool wooden seating places and a massive terracing around the stadium. Even a renovation in 2005 couldn't take away the soul and passion you find in this stadium. Definitely a must visit for everyone!