One of the most illuster lost grounds in Belgium can be found in the Antwerp region. Not a lot to be seen there now. The stadium has been torn down and the only thing that reminds to the past are two goals. We are obviously talking about the former KFC Germinal Ekeren. One of those teams that almost keeps the record for the quickest climb to the national first division. Although there is not much to see, it's still worth a visit. A small tip: you can combine a visit with Rozemaai, their training facilities; which are almost very much abandoned and where you can see more decay (most of the photos in this article are from Rozemaai).
But who or what is Germinal Ekeren? Ekeren is a smaller village near Antwerp forming a part of the bigger Antwerp city. FC Germinal Ekeren was founded as such in 1920 and always played on their grounds in the Veltwijckpark. Between 1920 and 1940 they only played football in the Socialist FA. Between '40 and '42 they played in the Flemish FA before moving to the Belgian FA finally in 1942. Only ten years later they reached the national divisions for the very first time (fourth division back then), but only for two years. In 1960 they came back, but quickly returned to the regional leagues again.
But once the 80s began the great successes started, right up until the very end of their existence. In 1981 they played in fourth division. In 1984 they promoted to third division. In 1988 second division welcomed them and in 1989 they reached first division. They never relegated back again. It became even better. In 1991 they even reached European football and the all throughout the 90s they would regularly play European games.
In 1997 they reached their absolute peak. Besides often ending the season in the top5 or even top3 they won the Belgian cup that year after defeating RSC Anderlecht miraculously. But by the end of the 90s the Belgian FA decided to implement licenses for football teams with certain (unrealistic) rules for the stadiums. Ekerens homeground, Veltwijckpark, wasn't fully equiped according to those standards and KFC Germinal Ekeren faced a possible relegation to third division if it didn't find a solution quick. A solution was found in a merger with the almost bankrupt Beerschot VAC, which used to be one of the absolute top teams in Belgium but fell into a dark pit due to a lot of financial problems.
In 1999 the merger was a fact. The new team, KFC Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen, moved to Kiel (the homeground of Beerschot VAC), but continued playing under the matricule number of KFC Germinal Ekeren. This merger was the start of the downfall of the team. They would never have the successes the old Germinal had and slowly but surely everything that ever remembered to the existence of Germinal Ekeren was thrown overboard. First their stadium, later on the colours and in a final phase also the name, the logo and the old board. In 2011 the name was changed into K Beerschot AC and two years later the story was told. The matricule number was deleted after the bankruption of the team, the second one the old Beerschot had to endure. Still Beerschot lives on, this time thanks to KFC Wilrijk. The two teams merged, continuing with the Wilrijk matricule number, but yet again in the stadium of Beerschot (renamed to Olympisch Stadion). The new team name became FCO Beerschot-Wilrijk and the new team started in the highest regional leagues. Year after year they promoted and currently they are playing in 1B.
But what a wonderful team KFC Germinal Ekeren was. Who doesn't remember players like Tony Vidmar, Jos Daerden, Deflandre, Schaessens, Severeyns, Eddy Snelders, Philippe Vande Walle, Mike Verstraeten, Tomasz Radzinski, Florian Urban, Simon Tahamata, Edwin Van Ankeren, Gunther Hofmans, Karagiannis en Cvijan Milosevic? If we include the youth teams of the Beerschot period, we might recognize some more names like Vermaelen, Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Dembélé.
(pictures underneath are all from the demolished stadium "Veltwijckpark").
Anecdote: The name Germinal is coming from the 7th month on the French calendar, which was a symbol for the socialist movement at that time. As such, Germinal Ekeren was a team with a more left intake.