With Brussels’ Zwanze derby between RWDM and Union Saint-Gilloise only days away, what better time to dive back into the little-known history of the capital’s mythical stadiums?
Too few people know of Brussels’ major role in international football history. Did you know that Europe’s first-ever international match was played in Uccle? That’s Belgium’s first football club was founded in Brussels? That the country’s biggest stadium is in Watermael-Boitsfort? That Vivier d’Oie is home to Europe’s oldest grandstand?
Discover the capital’s footballing gems and their history, in our top 11.
King Baudouin Stadium - cc - Francois Lambregts
1. King Baudouin Stadium – Avenue de Marathon, Laeken
King Baudouin Stadium is Belgium’s national stadium. It has a 50,000 seat capacity, which can rise to 60,000 for concerts. Every year the stadium hosts two major sporting events: the final of the Belgian Cup and the Memorial Van Damme leg of athletics’ Diamond League. It also regularly hosts the concerts of big names such as Madonna, U2, Céline Dion and, of course, Beyoncé, who performed there in front of almost 60,000 people for her "The Formation World Tour" on 31 July 2016.
2. Lotto Park – Avenue Théo Verbeeck, Anderlecht
Together with the King Baudoin Stadium, it is one of the largest sports venues in the Brussels-Capital Region. Since its inauguration in 1917, it has been home to RSC Anderlecht football club. Located in Astrid Park in Anderlecht, it hosted on of the semi-finals of the 1972 European Football Championships which were held in Belgium.
cc - KSKB1935
3. Stade Joseph Marien – Chaussée de Bruxelles, Forest
Located on the edge of Duden Park, Stade Joseph Marien sits in a picturesque green setting. Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, one of Brussels' most historic clubs, has been playing its home games at this magnificent ground - which is also renowned for its Art Deco facade - for more than 100 years.
4. Stade Bertelson – Avenue du Globe, Forest
This stadium is a dream location for nostalgics. The former fortress of La Forestoise came very close to hosting the Red Devils. However, the authorities chose the Heysel complex and Stade Bertelson was used as a training ground.
5. Complexe sportif Neerstalle – Rue Zwartebeek, Uccle
Leopold FC is one of the oldest teams in Belgium. The team was founded in 1893, as a tribute to King Leopold II, and played in the first and second division for almost 30 years. The team has, since then, plied its trade in the lower divisions.
6. Stade du Vivier d’Oie – Avenue des Chênes, Uccle
Located in Uccle, the historic ground of Racing Club of Brussels is home to two firsts. It was the venue for Europe’s first international football match and housed the continent’s first football stand to be built in reinforced concrete.
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7. Complexe sportif des 3 Tilleuls – Avenue des Nymphes, Watermael-Boitsfort
In addition to the King Baudouin stadium, Brussels is also home to another giant temple of football. It may not have been the site of countless great successes, but it is a place that stadium enthusiasts cherish like no other. Stade des 3 Tilleuls is the second largest stadium in Belgium. In theory, it can accommodate up to 40,000 football fans, although this has long been prohibited for safety reasons.
8. Stade Fallon – Chemin du Struykbeken, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert
This remarkable sports complex features 6 football pitches, an athletics track and of course the magnificent Elascon stand. Originally, Stade Fallon was built for Royal White Star.
9. Stade Georges Pêtre – Avenue des Communautés, Evere
Originally built for RCS Saint-Josse in memory of one of their greatest heroes and long-time mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Georges Pètre, this stadium has a unique stand which will sadly be abolished due to its poor condition.
10. Stade du Crossing – Avenue du Suffrage Universel, Schaerbeek
In the upper part of Josaphat Park you will find Stade du Crossing, which is part of Brussels' rich sporting heritage. It had been abandoned since 1975 and lies in a decrepit and dilapidated state. Fortunately, in 2010, major renovation work was undertaken to restore the stadium to its former glory.
© Louis De Waele
11. Stade Edmond Machtens – Rue Charles Malis, Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
Undoubtedly one of the best known stadiums in Brussels, Stade Edmond Machtens has a maximum capacity of 12,266 seats. It is currently occupied by RWD Molenbeek, who play in Belgium's second tier. This legendary stadium has been the venue for many Brussels derbies. Of course, the Zwanze derbies, between great rivals RWDM and Union Saint Gilloise, but also derbies between RDWM and RSC Anderlecht.