Every Song has a Story to tell: Birdy – Wings

I thought of more frequently writing about songs just because… I like them. Even if there is no special meaning or so, just sharing the songs I love. But then, every song has a meaning, and in addition most songs I love have a very specific personal meaning to me. So both the real meaning and my own interpretation together resulted in the idea of creating a series of song portraits called "Every Song has a story to tell". Sometimes my own "meaning" will correspond with the real meaning of the song, sometimes it will be totally different.

I start off with Birdy. If you listen to a song over and over again for more than 5 hours while reading, then it must indicate this song is special.

And indeed the song is special, especially when knowing it was co-written and co-composed by Birdy herself, who is only 17 years of age at the time I am writing this. A 17 year old able to write such an emotional song, is a rare talent. It is almost unbelievable that someone of such young age could do that.

Birdy, who took her stage name from the fact her parents always called her like that as a baby due to the way she opened her mouth for eating, is a British singer-songwriter of Belgian and Dutch roots. She herself was born and raised in England but her real name, Jasmine van den Bogaerde, indicates Belgian and Dutch origins.

She was born in 1996 in England in a very musical family. Her mother was a concert pianist, and Birdy adopted the love for the piano, learning to play at age 7 and already writing own songs aged 8. The true story of Jasmine’s musical career started at age 12 however when she entered Open Mic UK in 2008, a talent contest for unsigned singers and bands. She entered with her own song "So be free" and won the first prize in both the under-18 category and the overall category.

Early 2011, aged 14, Birdy covered Bon Iver’s song "Skinny Love" which resulted in mass success in the charts, even reaching nr 1 in several countries. Later that year, Birdy released her debut album, the self-titled "Birdy" which contained only cover songs except for 1 track which was an original. It reached nr 1 in Belgium, The Netherlands and as far as Australia, where her singles also reached very high in the singles charts.

Now, aged 17, the follow-up "Fire within" is doing very fine as well. This album is a drastic turn away from the very acoustic piano-driven fragile debut album. While the piano still plays a very important role, some other instruments were added (Birdy even learnt to play the guitar for this album) which leaves some songs with a more bombastic impression, as if the sound gradually becomes stronger and reaches its peak when the other instruments come in. But equally important: instead of the covers she did when she released her first record, this time Birdy co-wrote all songs on the album, a rare fact for someone of such tender age. It just gets more remarkable when hearing the songs and realise how beautiful it sounds.

The first single from the album, "Wings", was a true revelation to me. I was instantly grabbed by the piano driven stanzas and Birdy’s fragile yet beautiful voice, then to have an almost celebrating more up-tempo chorus in which the other instruments come into play. The sound of the song is warm, the lyrics heartwarming and beautiful. The song immediately grasped me and I could not stop listening to it. Even including one day where I played it 30 or 40 times in a row. This was the type of song justifying buying the CD for (luckily there are more gems on her album)

"Wings" describes remembering past events ranging from dancing on top of cars or waking up with the sunlight coming in, just because she thought of the person she was with.

The video also demonstrates this: a big nocturnal mansion party is shown where people dressed in weird costumes walk around, people have fun, Birdy is shown on a swing while glowing lights now and then illuminate the nightly sky. Birdy stated it is about having a great time with friends, the kind of time that you know you’ll never ever forget it.

To me the song has a more romantic edge. I do not see a wild mansion party in front of me with lots of people dancing, I see a couple in front of me that are alone at night somewhere in the fields, under a star-filled sky, dancing to this beautifully romantic music. When Birdy sings about how thinking of "you" reminds her or all those things that occured, it sounds to me as two lovers looking back on how their life together has been so far.

However, when we take things to the chorus, this is where it truly gets emotional to me. The song just reflects in an eeriely perfect way my idea of the ideal romantic night with my future lover. How can someone not feel butterflies in the stomach and get a warm feeling inside, dreaming about that one true love, when listening to lines such as

"Lights go down
In the moment we’re lost and found
I just wanna be by your side
If these wings could fly…"

The chorus completes with the other person telling her he’ll remember that night forever.

This is how I picture the perfect romantic night, the type of night where all good things suddenly come together, you’re alone with your lover and the rest of the world feels like it doesn’t even exist. All that matters would be me and her. A simple line like "we’re lost and found… I just wanna be by your side" reflects the equally simple yet very powerful feeling of just wanting to be with that person you love, and feel a waterfall of happiness and joy simply by being with her. As if the rest of the world doesn’t matter, doesn’t even exist, and you simply dance in the field at night, fall in each others’ arms, and feel an emotion of total happiness. With nobody to be around to disrupt this moment. It’s just two lovers, so happy they are together, just the two of them in a night when all nice things just happen to come together.

That warm feeling of love is almost illuminating the sky, which is the idea I get when seeing the lights lightning up the dark skies in the video. As if the mutual love literally illuminates the dark skies, as if the love warms the air in the midst of the night. That is the feeling I get when listening to that chorus while watching the video of the song.

To me it is simply a representation of the feeling of total happiness by just being together, and knowing you will never forget that night and never forget that blissful feeling; while having the desire to make that relationship last a lifetime.

Love songs are often cliche, and in a way this song in its true interpretation is about friendship more than it is about love. But I hope Birdy will forgive me for giving the song a bit of an own angle.

This is the perfect song to play on the background while holding each other in each others’ arms and sharing a tender kiss. This song is the ideal soundtrack when you first kiss your (new) partner — as far as such thing can be planned. It would even make a perfect opening dance for those who would choose to get married.

Fantastic efford, and her young age only makes it more remarkable. Now Birdy isn’t all about happy love or friendship, just give "All you never say" a listen, which is about the other person never saying the few words she is hoping to hear (that he loves her). But meanwhile Birdy perfectly reflects the simple desire and hope to be with someone: "Words with no meaning have kept me dreaming" while not losing sight of reality as the words in the end tell her nothing about where she stands.

I wish to heavily recommend this exceptional talent. If you can create such songs when you’re just 17, then you just know you discovered a very rare musical talent that puts 80 to 90% of the folks in the charts to shame. Forget the charts, and surrender to the beautiful music of Birdy!

Posted in Artists, Music, Songs | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Black Tokens – Another Little Lie – Belfast memories

In the past I have already discussed how music and arts in Belfast’s underground artistic scene influenced me and inspired me to start writing myself. Sadly enough, a lot of the bands I was friends with and attended gigs of, have split up. In the past, on this blog you have seen posts on the final pre-break-up release by Solemn Novena, and I cannot remember by heart if I already wrote an article on it, but The Messiah Syndrome (from Derry) were another great band (extremely loud and heavy but extremely intense) that broke up after having attended several gigs of them and chatting a lot with their guitar player. One time, a Messiah Syndrome gig in Derry forced me to spend the night on the streets of Derry waiting for next morning’s first train back to Belfast, where I lived at the time. Good memories.

Belfast, as rainy and windy it may get, is a city that is highly recommendable. The history, while not a pretty one, is unique, but people look to the future with a lot of hope. The artistic scene may be largely underground but is extremely exciting and diverse, with a lot of talened artists performing in the local alternative circuit. It is a very exciting place to be for arts lovers. It inspired me. Why tourists waste time in Dublin rather than heading north to the much more interesting city of Belfast, I will probably never understand. I can say however: I lived 2 years in the Northern Irish capital and had a great time overall.

One of the countless memories on Belfast I have is a band called The Black Tokens. The band, formed 2005 in Belfast, consisted of highly charismatic frontman Niall Graham on vocals, Paddy Steele and Stephen Hill on guitar, Stuart Murphy on bass, Michael Kent on drums. The band played what could be described as back-to-basics raw rock music, with loud intensive riffs, heavy pounding drums, and a vocalist screaming the energy out of his longs. You can recognise some old school rock in their music, a very raw but energetic rock sound. It sounds very recognisable but yet hard to tag. The typical vocals and highly energetic performance of Niall was an important attraction pole.

I first saw the band playing at Lavery’s Bunker (one of the most famous pubs and venues in Belfast) and was quite impressed with what I heard. One song stood out for me: "Another Little Lie". That song had it all. Raw angry vocals by Niall, heavy riffs on guitar building tension towards the chorus, pounding drums backing all that musical energy on the front of the stage, and a lyric that was actually very good. The song, Niall explained me, dealt with dictatorships such as Germany during the second world war.

A few months later the Tokens played Lavery’s again and I was there again. Niall still remembered me, and invited me to an afterparty in one of the followers’ homes. That party was as wild as the performance itself. In a (very classy) apartment in the famous Sandy Row (really, it is not as dangerous as some people claim it is !) we had lots of fun, some really absurd chats on very odd subjects, we laughed a lot with a Rambo film that happened to be on TV, and filled the evening with a typical Irish party atmosphere. Good memories.

Sadly, Niall left the band after a while and I have never had the chance to see them with their new vocalist as I had already moved on out of Ireland by then. A bit later, the news reached me via the web that The Black Tokens were no more.

I am not sure if their EPs are somewhere for sale, maybe only in very obscure Northern Irish record stores, maybe only the former band members have a few copies left. I hope the band won’t be forgotten and I was excited with pleasure when after many years I found out one of the band members (Paddy) had uploaded some Black Tokens era songs on his webpage. It felt great to hear the songs again, especially Another Little Lie.

You can find it here on his webpage at Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/paddysteele/another-little-lie

The Black Tokens are also on Last.fm even when obviously inactive: http://www.last.fm/music/The+Black+Tokens

It is great to hear these songs again, and with all the memories attached. Good Belfast memories. The Black Tokens could have made it big. Sadly enough, Northern Ireland’s vibrant musical scene is largely ignored by labels and record producers. The Black Tokens join the list of Solemn Novena, The Messiah Syndrome, The Fools, … : all talented Belfast based bands who deserved a much better fate than what became of them.

Posted in Bands, Music, Songs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Follow up: the graveyard of Brussels football in the shadow of Anderlecht

A while ago I wrote about how different clubs in Brussels try to revive the memory of the old RWDM: FC Brussels has been trying it for years, RWDM 2003 is an amateur club claiming the legacy of RWDM, and FC Bleid Gaume (or Bleid Molenbeek as they are commonly called since relocation to Brussels) was the newest and most promising attempt in reviving the legacy of the old RWDM.

Meanwhile, a few weeks later, situations have changed and total chaos rules over football in the capital district (obviously with the exception of top team RSC Anderlecht who, despite less good results lately, still lead in the playoffs at the time of writing… but in their shadow, all other clubs in the capital seem to struggle heavily). The things I wrote a short while ago are already largely invalid due to recent changes, and total chaos rules over the clubs in the capital in between RSC Anderlecht (very stable) and the amateur clubs (mostly stable but not really trying to grow rapidly – unlike White Star Woluwe, FC Brussels, FC Bleid etc).

Let’s start with a look at the clubs from division 2 till 4, as they were the ambitious ones trying to grow and further develop despite the fierce competition from Belgium’s top club Anderlecht.

FC Brussels announced proudly that a group of Dubai based investors would heavily finance the club and bring in a lot of talented players. Despite that, current club president Johan Vermeersch would also remain in a leading role. Brussels would that way professionalise strongly and aim for top division football very soon.

A few weeks later, none of these plans remain. The UAE investors sent some players and apparently made one single payment (though I am not entirely sure of this) before Vermeersch broke all contacts with them. Within the staff of FC Brussels, coaches and board members became divided between those supporting the current board and those supporting the Dubai investment. This has lead to large insecurity (it will be a question mark whether the club has finances enough to get its license to remain in second division), uncertainty about the future, internal struggles, and lately even a part of the coaching staff resigned because of their support for the Dubai investment group. Part of the players chose side with them and went on strike.

Last weekend, Brussels had only 1 reserve player in the selection: reserve goalkeeper Cyprien Baguette. The other players were the 11 on the pitch itself. All others were on strike. It is a miracle that in such chaotic circumstances, the club managed to collect quite a few points the last week, resulting in near-certainty about not relegating to division 3 (unless they would be refused a license). However, insecurity about the future remains, and the crowd is getting tired of this. In the derby versus White Star Woluwe, the near 15000 seats capacity stadium in Molenbeek was virtually empty with less than 500 people attending the derby. An all time low for the club that so ambitiously brought KFC Strombeek to Molenbeek about 10 years ago, changed its name to FC Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek and wanted to fill the void that RWDM had left behind.

Unless plans change again, the club will take on a new logo and rebrand itself RWD Brussels Molenbeek. Let’s see if this plan first of all gets realised, and if it has any enthousiast effect on the disappointed fans.

Second club that was flying high in division II was White Star Woluwe, although they are a bit different as in: they never tried to be the follow up of RWDM, even if some former RWDM fans follow the team. White Star won the first tier of the championship and thus qualified for the playoffs for promotion to the highest level of Belgian football. The club lost its leader position and meanwhile KV Oostende has assured itself the championship title and promotion to the highest division. Woluwe is still in the top-7 though and normally could qualify for top division football through the playoffs.

That dream is long gone. Promised payments from investors remain unpaid, players have not received salary as it should be, and the players even went on strike for the derby against FC Brussels. To avoid an embarrassing forfait defeat, Woluwe played that derby with a mixture of players from their U19 and other youth squads. The team that played the derby were mostly guys aged 16, 17 or 18. The oldest player in that squad was 20 years old. Obviously the derby was lossed but with a 3-0 loss the youngsters didn’t do so bad (Brussels did miss two additional penalty kicks).

Yesterday it was announced that, as the promised investments did not come yet, the club decided to enter administration. This means they can forget about the license and will likely relegate to division 3. To stay in division 2, they need a financial miracle in extremely rapid tempo. The top division is a dream already long forgotten, the club already told they won’t play the playoffs after all (but by going into administration the odds are sky high a license will be refused, which means they disqualify for the playoffs anyway). The players are per direct released of their contracts and can seek a new club. Those players who will play for White Star in the remaining few games of the season will do so voluntarely, so the odds they will have to field half a reserve team are high. Whether the club will survive, and in which division they will be next year, will largely depend on the administrators now.

FC Bleid Gaume, from the village of Bleid near the Luxembourg border, was moved the over 200 km to Brussels with the intention to swallow the 8th division amateur team RWDM 2003 at the end of the season, rename itself RWDM 47 and be the follow up of the legendary RWDM. Michel De Wolf invested heavily in that project and initially fans of the old RWDM followed and even attended games wearing RWDM banners and scarves. The enthousiasm about this "new RWDM" was quite big.

Meanwhile this plan has been abandonned. Not only did FC Bleid continue its losing streak (they remain on the very bottom spot of 3rd division B and relegation to 4th division cannot be avoided) but the plan to become the new RWDM incarnation has been abolished too. The fact the team did not manage to realise that goal scared off fans who stopped attending games. Also, I can not remember even having seen a team at this level using 5 different grounds in 1 season due to not having an own stadium. The initial idea to play at the B pitch of the Machtensstadion (FC Brussels, formerly RWDM) was abolished and due to not having a home the team already had to play 2 games outside of the capital district in the early season. They then agreed to lease the B pitch of the national stadium (at the Heizel in Laeken) for the rest of the season, with the issue that 5th division club Etoile Bruxelles Capitale was already using the ground for many seasons and thus had the priority. Initially the FA managed to assure they never had home games at the same time, but in the end they could not avoid to schedule FC Bleid games when the Heizel B was used by the national rugby team or when Etoile Bruxelles Capitale already had a home game the same day. This forced FC Bleid Molenbeek to use the Stade Fallon (White Star Woluwe’s ground) a few times as emergency solution. Last Sunday, Etoile Bruxelles had a home game so the Heizel B was occupied, and FC Bleid Molenbeek moved its home game against Verviers (2-2 result, a rare non-defeat) to the Joseph Mariënstadium of Union St Gilloise. The 5th ground they have already used this season, and the stands were virtually empty. Fans seem to give up and abandon the club massively.

Still, of the clubs mentioned, it may be FC Bleid who has the brightest future: Red Devils and Man City captain Vincent Kompany wanted to do something to offer quality sporting programs for the ethnically diverse youth in Brussels. He in the end decided to invest in a club and his choice was FC Bleid. He bought the club and rather than trying to rebrand it as a new RWDM, Vincent Kompany decided to really take a clean start.

The club will be managed daily by his sister and father, who share Kompany’s ideals about the social project to invest in the youth of the capital city. Vincent Kompany himself, an example of how you can get from the streets of Brussels to the international top, will finance the club. He asked fans to make suggestions for the new name. A lot of response came, including some names indeed refering to the old RWDM (Racing White Bruxelles, Daring Brussels, … were amongst the suggestions). Some names were more generic (Atomium Brussels, FC Ket Brussels, Brussels United, Brussels City, Youth FC Brussels, …) and there were even the few joke suggestions such as "FC Brussels Sprouts" and "Laat de bal Marollen" (Marollen being a district in Brussels, but also a wordplay on "maar rollen" which means "let it roll"). In the end Kompany chose the new name BX Brussels.

BX is the abbreviation many youngsters in Brussels use to point at their city, it is a short name and sounds international. So at the end of the season FC Bleid will disappear as a name, and BX Brussels will start from scratch in 4th division next season.

Personally I’d say the choice may be wise: if you really want to start from zero, then don’t claim the legacy of a former club. The new name sounds brief, to the point, and neutral. This allows the club to not bear the history of any other club and indeed start from scratch. The one problem: the fans were hoping for an RWDM rebirth and will be bitterly disappointed to see the new name by no means refers to the old RWDM. Because of this reason too, RWDM 2003 (the amateur club at 8th level which would be annexed by FC Bleid end of this season) is no longer joining the project and will continue to play as a separate amateur club RWDM 2003.

So next year we have BX Brussels, a club which will have to start from zero in terms of recruiting fans, finding a stadium, choosing colours for the club, build its own identity. It is however a social project for the Brussels youth which received a lot of enthousiasm. RSC Anderlecht, where Kompany played before, has already promised to cooperate with BX Brussels and help Kompany to recruit young kids from the capital to get the youth program started. Knowing Kompany can build from zero without any legacy to bear, that the money is there, … it may very well be BX Brussels who has a bright future ahead in the shadow of giants RSC Anderlecht. A lot will depend if the initial target audience (the old RWDM fans) can be replaced by a new audience embracing the totally new team, if the club finds its own identity soon enough, … But the money and management is already there (it is still unsure which stadium will become the home of BX Brussels though).

Then we still have Union Saint Gilloise, FC Ganshoren and Leopold Uccle in the 3rd and 4th division. These clubs from the capital district look stable but also do not come across ambitious in terms of climbing in the hierarchy of the Belgian football. It seems for Union, they feel comfortable in third division. Ganshoren has survived in 4th division which was already a success for them, and only Uccle seems to show some ambition to grow to a higher level. They are fighting for a place in the playoffs for promotion to division 3 now.

Summarised the semi professional clubs that wanted to fill the void of RWDM and become a second big club in Brussels, all seem to have ended in total chaos, with nothing but shattered plans and illusions left behind. The chaos is complete if we realise that except for BX Brussels (and they have the cash only thanks to Vincent Kompany’s investment), the other ambitious clubs may not even survive financially. It seems the monopoly of Anderlecht on football in Brussels is not going to be challenged anytime soon.

Is the future of football in Brussels that bleak, then? Well, no. The nuance is that in the regional divisions (divisions 5 to 8) some amateur clubs are doing very well. Of course they have no short term ambitions to become semi professional and go to a higher level, but some clubs do indeed blossom in the amateur football.

RC Schaerbeek may be the best example. Just promoted from 6th division, the team is still in the running to promote a second year in a row and end up in 4th division. The title may be tricky to reach, but they are already sure of playoff participation. Their ground is very decent and still can expand, they have a large youth program and an attendance remarkably high for the standards of 5th division. So this club has potential for sure. Whether we can say the same about Crossing, the club they share their stadium with, is a question mark: just 1 year after its creation it is too early to see how this club will further develop.

Etoile Bruxelles Capitale, also in 5th division, had a season without any serious chances for promotion and without being in a concrete relegation worries. A worryless mid table season. They have the potential to do better next season, and their social role in Brussels youth football is still important.

In 6th division, clubs such as Blue Star Brussels (the club that broke off from Maccabi Brussels), FC Kosova Schaerbeek and RRC Boitsfort have the means to climb at least 1 more level and they are all in good positions for playoff qualification. Whether the ambition to grow already now is present or whether they prefer to do it slowly and remain at their current level for now, is something I am not sure of.

In 7th division we see several Brussels based clubs that can prepare for promotion. FC Saint Josse is almost sure to win its series and promote directly, they still did not lose a single game this season. In that same division, SC Ixelles (who played in nationwide series many decades ago) still can qualify for the playoffs. In another 7th division series, FC Black Star and Suryoyes (both from Neder-over-Heembeek in Brussels capital district) are in a two-horse race for winning the division and promoting directly to 6th division. A few spots below, Oviedo Asturiana Anderlecht still can reach the playoffs for promotion although this is unsure for now.

In 8th division, the only Dutch speaking club in the capital, Ritterklub Jette, seems to be unstoppable to promote directly and they also talked about improving their accomodation. Ambitions are high. RWDM 2003 (the amateur club claiming the legacy of the old RWDM) still has a chance to qualify for the playoffs for promotion. There is one serie (with only 11 teams, most being reserve teams) in 8th division with only clubs from the capital district. FC Moreda Uccle has the best odds to promote. Trabzon Schaerbeek and Etterbeek Armenia hope to reach the playoffs (the other teams who have a chance to do so are all reserve teams, such as Kosova B and the reserves of FC Saint Josse).

So football in Brussels at amateur level is doing fine, and Anderlecht is still leading the league in the highest division. With Vincent Kompany investing in the new team BX Brussels, hopes for a stable new club in the capital is growing. The problems are mainly those teams in 2nd and 3rd division who have been trying to fill the gap left by RWDM for years, all without success. The chaos seems to even become bigger and bigger, and fans stay at home in disillusion. FC Brussels will be happy if they get their license and can stay in 2nd division (which gives them a few months to get the club back on its feet and solve the internal disagreements), White Star Woluwe will already be happy if the club still exists next season, and FC Bleid gave up the dream to recruit the old RWDM fans and now focusses on a future as a de facto totally new club BX Brussels.

Posted in Football, Football clubs, Leagues and Cups | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The most unique interpretation of Tainted Love: Coil

Tainted Love is a song most people, if not all people, know. It was originally performed by Gloria Jones, but only became a mainstream hit when synthpop duo Soft Cell (including Marc Almond on vocals) covered the song in 1981. The cover, which appeared on the brilliant Soft Cell album "Non-stop erotic cabaret" (without any images, the music just breathes the hidden sleazy atmosphere of the Soho red light district and contains several brilliant songs), was synth-driven. Danceable yet very original due to using a synth, electronic noises. Add Marc Almond’s vocals, varying from torched to sleazy, on top… and you had one of the most iconic songs of the eighties.

Suddenly "Tainted Love" became a worldwide classic, and since that moment (1981) the song has been covered by so many artists that it ranks amongst the most frequently covered songs ever. Marilyn Manson made a decent but not too special cover in the first half of the past decade, Belgian dance band Milk Inc made a disco-like version of it, and the list of bands and artists who covered it is a lot lot longer. The song has been performed in a whole range of different styles, from soul to pop, from dance to synthpop, from metal to coldwave, … But as much as I love Soft Cell’s version, the version which leaves the deepest impact has to be the 1985 release by Coil. Before continueing to read, here is a

WARNING: the cover is very bleak and the atmosphere of the cover is eerie and cold, almost like a funeral. People sensitive to such sombre music may prefer to stop reading here. I felt it was my obligation to include this warning.

Coil was a unique band overall. It was one of those bands who experimented with the boundaries of music. Their sound being too alienating for the mainstream crowd, but too brilliant and renewing not to be highly influential in the alternative scene. Coil was a UK based electronic music duo with two fixed members: John "Jhonn" Balance and Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson. A long list of other artists contributed but these two guys really were the core of Coil and the only permanent members during the band’s existance from 1982 until 2004. The band was too diverse to categorise, leading to a whole list of musical styles applied to them: noise, avant-garde, coldwave, synthpop, electro, industrial, drone, … A band too diverse to just categorise. The band was way too special to reach the mainstream crowds but they were so influential on the alternative scene that in a whole range of genres, some artists will include Coil amongst their inspirations. The band existed over 20 years but, the final 5 years of their existance aside, rarely if ever performed live, which added to the fog of mystery surrounding the band.

The sound of the band thus is very hard to describe but generally they tried to confuse their audience and create a chaotic, sometimes apocalyptic or unsettled, soundscape. Their influences were not necessarily other musicians: Coil were heavily influenced by occultism, alchemy, spirituality…. and cited, amongst others, Marquis de Sade and Aleister Crowley as inspirations. It was also known that a sort of ritual drug consumption was done during recordings, probably to add to the special surreal soundscapes they wanted to create.

"Tainted Love/Panic" was a double single released in 1985 and was a landmark in musical history. While AIDS and HIV have been widely discussed and taken out of the taboo atmosphere since Freddie Mercury’s death shocked the world in the early nineties, the disease was highly taboo in the eighties. In 1985 Coil recorded and released this cover of Tainted Love with the intention to donate the earnings to AIDS research. It was the first time ever in music history that profits were donated to AIDS related charity, as the band stuck to their intentions and donated all money earned from the record to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an AIDS charity. "Nothing special", some may say, but again: this was 1985, several years before openly debating AIDS became accepted. Back then it was taboo. Thus, Coil made a bit of music history here with this first ever release whose profits were donated to an AIDS related organisation. The cover sounds cold, eerie and has the sad atmosphere of a funeral, the video is eerie and shows a sick near-dying patient in a hospital along with some occult symbolism. Maybe though such a sombre atmosphere was just fitting given the purpose of the release being donating money to AIDS charity. It is quite hard to make a song linked to AIDS and make it sound happy and danceable. The cold, sombre atmosphere suited just perfectly. The version is almost 6 minutes in length and so sombre and cold that it is by far the most unique version of Tainted Love, sounding dramatically different from all other covers recorded before (and after).

If asked how to describe this cover… Well, imagine a distant church bell tolling briefly, announcing an unsettling feeling that sinks in, then a few synths slowly come in. The sound of the synths is cold, eerie, sombre, and the bell toll sounds are repeated regularly. Only now and then a dramatic percussion-esque sound comes from the synths, if you listen by ear phone those bits are like a hammer knocking against your ears due to the stark contrast with the slow, chillingly cold synths throughout the song. The singing is done on a monotome, almost emotionless tone, almost like someone reciting an eerie poem in a very monotome sombre sounding voice. Only towards the end of the song there would be a bit of easily noticeable variation in tone, but this monotome vocal suits the monotome synths very well. Both sound cold, eerie and very sombre. It all fits together very well. It creates an atmosphere that sounds more sombre than the average funeral mass, but at the same time theme, sound, vocals and video form such a good combination that the sadness of the song is no longer the main thing (at least not to me, but it may be different for very sensitive people): the perfection of how this all fits together, the extremely precisely performed details of it all, … At this point I really felt this song was entrancing and fascinating in its perfection.

Most Tainted Love covers are quite short, this version takes 5:55 minutes on CD, and almost 7 minutes in the promo video.

John Balance featured in the video, Christopherson directed. Marc Almond, who made "Tainted Love" so famous due to his Soft Cell version, also briefly occurs in the video, which is as sombre as the song. A patient in a hospital is taken towards his bed in a wheelchair, and when the song moves on he gets sicker and sicker. I believe, although not sure, in the end the character died or is at least comatose. A few moments stand out in the video, which I will cite here while mentioning the minute and second within the video:

– beginning of the video: a sort of yellow sticky, almost glue-like substance is shown, while you hear the buzzing of insects on the background before the music kicks off. No idea what the glue-like substance could be refering to.

– seconds 0:15 to 0:18 display two black and white pictures of the sun, in this format this is considered an occult symbol.

– seconds 0:25 to 0:30 : the mysterious yellow substance is poured on a surface. No idea what this refers to.

The next moments you see an ill person driven through hospital corridors in a wheelchair. A few black and white drawings pass, but it it very unclear what is shown as they are showing for less than a second.

– 1:00 to 1:12 : the person is being put to bed, while again vague black and white drawings flash by. The only one I could clearly identify is the face of a young woman, the other one was too abstract for me to decipher.

– 2:27 to 2:32 : two black and white images flash by. The one is clearly a close up of the total drawing that is shown next. It displays a demon-like creature holding a book and handing it over to a hard-to-recognise human or other entity.

The yellow substance is repeatedly shown briefly meanwhile, with insects sitting next to it.

– 3:27 : as the second time the chorus is read, you see the ill patient in dire state, needing an oxygen mask to breathe. In the seconds after a rare visitor passes by, I believe this was the role played by Marc Almond of Soft Cell.

– 4:18 : the ill person is laying on the bed, totally covered by a blanket. This suggest he has passed away or is in extremely poor health, such as a coma. A sign "quarantine ; do not enter" is on the door of the person’s hospital room.

– 4:21 : a drawing is briefly shown of a weird entity which looks mostly like a sphynx drawn in ancient Egyptian style. Less than two seconds later a very unclear image is shown, it seems (but I am unsure) to be a close-up of a painting but it is too unclear to say for sure.

– 4:44 : we see someone outside of the now empty bad, collecting the blankets. Has the person in the bed somehow managed to fight back against his illness? Or, maybe more likely, is someone preparing the bed for a next patient after the ill person was taken away?

– 5:10 to 5:15 : two occult symbols are shown. One looks like a geometric form with 6 angles, however no tradition shape. The second one is one of the forms in which the Eye of Providence (the All Seeing Eye) is sometimes displayed. The latter is a symbol widely used by Freemasons and Illuminati and probably also by occult organisations. The first one is, if I am not wrong, the unicursal hexagram, a common symbol of Thelema. However, I am not entirely sure.

– 5:34 to 5:37 : the words "Love is the law , love under will" are displayed. This is one of the most famous passages from the "Book of Law" written by notorious occultist Aleister Crowley. Crowley was associated with several occult organisations and practised "magick" which deliberately spelled as such to distinguish it from the common interpretation of "magic". "The Book of Law" is one of the most famous occult writings ever, the title has a Latin variant called "Liber AL vel Legis". It is believed to be the central sacred text of the Thelema. Crowley wrote it in Egypt in a few hours time (sessions combined) and says co-authorship goes to a spiritual entity called Aiwass. The book contains 3 chapters, each was written in hour time. The famous quote which was partially used in the Coil video states:

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
Every man and every woman is a star."

It has clearly been pointed out that Crowley and occultism in general heavily influenced Coil’s two permanent members.

– Finally, at the end of the music video, a tombstone is shown, where the vocalist puts flowers next to the grave. This indicates the ill person we saw earlier in the video has passed away.

For sure how it is simply undeniable that this video entrances for those who are not too overwhelmed by sensitive images. The whole song has an eerie, cold atmosphere, both the music, the monotome vocals, the hospital scenes, … And why do we see the Crowley quote, the all-seeing eye, the demon-like creature, … pass by? It adds to the thick layer of mystery surrounding the song, and adds to the fascinating aspect.

As said, this song isn’t for anyone. It is way too dark and sombre to recommend it to someone who is easily upset by scary or sensitive images. And even if very eerie images do not scare you, you can appreciate this cover only if you approach music with an open mind, allowing to move the boundaries of music.

If you love easily accessible music, with a clear rhytm and structure, making you feel happy, and nice to dance to: forget about it.
If you love complex, very experimental music with mysterious elements all over the place: you are likely to love this song and its video.

Coil itself was a band with an air of mystery. Their fascination for alchemy, chaos, occultism etc was widely known, their drug use widely documented. The songs were so hard to categorise that linking to Coil to one specific genre is simply impossible.

Coil also gained notoriety live despite rarely performing at all. After a few performances in 1983, the band did not perform live anymore until 1999. Guest contributors would join Balance and Christopherson on stage. Their live performances were, this should not surprise you, atypical and surreal. The band wore very strange suits on stage, strange images were shown on the background, and fog machines had to create an eerie atmosphere. Shows were often chaotic due to alcohol abuse. Balance died in 2004. For one who had such a special career, his death was remarkably sensationless: at home he fell and landed in a way that was fatal. The band was disbanded at that moment since it was clear Coil could never be Coil without Christopherson and Balance. The death of Balance, also caused the end of Coil and concluded a 22 years long career in which the band broke boundaries musically, alienated and fascinated the crowds, and wrote musical history with the first ever donation of sales profits to an AIDS charity. The legacy of the band continues.

In November 2010, Christopherson died as well. He died in his sleep in Bangkok and left the mortal world in the Buddhist tradition: the ashes being shattered across the water of a river. Both permanent members of the band have died, but the legacy lives on. Their influence may have been mainly in the alternative scene, but it did influence many musicians from a wide range of musical styles.

Small PS: the museum of Modern Art in New York, who have a collection of iconic videos which they display, purchased Coil’s "Tainted Love" video as first item in their meanwhile quite impressive catalogue. A bigger recognition to this piece of art is hardly possible to think of.

I thank Wikipedia and a short entry on Coil in "Oor’s Popencyclopedie" to trigger my interest in the band and made me realise what epic cover this band has made. Analysing and deciphering the video of the song was quite hard, and I can only hope my interpretations are somewhat correct. Some images shown were too vague for me to claim a certain correct analysis, probably the band were the only ones who knew the exact meaning of using those occult symbols in the video. But it’s never wrong to retain a bit of mystery…

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RWDM: a glorious past, but no future?

After a number of bad performances abroad a negative feelings about the Belgian teams and league, the last couple of years my native country is on the way up again. The national team has its brightest selection of young talents available in over a decade, and fans from all parts of the country have massively embraced the national team again. Also, a few years after the reforms of the league (notably entering a play-off system to determine the nation’s champion, European slots and relegators to second division) the Belgian clubs are also again performing better in Europe.

RSC Anderlecht, last year’s champion of Belgium, qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 5 years. While they were eliminated in the group phase, they did get a lot of positive comments from Belgian football fans and from their opponents. Only Spanish club Malaga CF was clearly too strong for Anderlecht when they beat them 0-3 in Brussels. In the other 5 games of the group stage, Anderlecht showed a decent and sometimes downward good display. They also had a few good results, such as a 0-0 draw in San Siro against AC Milan, a draw away to (already qualified) Malaga, and a well deserved home victory against Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg. They were unlucky to lose in Russia and unlucky at home versus Milan too, but only in one game out of six they were truly deserving the loss. Anderlecht left the Champions League with heads up high.

Our other teams in Europe this year also didn’t do too bad. Only Lokeren and KAA Gent (Lokeren won the Belgian Cup in 2011-2012 season) did not make the group stages of the Europa League, Lokeren however came close: losing only on away goals rule against Viktoria Plzen (who would later win their group ahead of Atletico Madrid). Only Ghent could look back in anger, as they were beaten chancelessly by Hungarian team Videoton (after already struggling to eliminate Luxembourgish amateurs Differdange). Club Brugge did not perform too well neither, finishing bottom in their group, but they had a win versus Maritimo Funchal and a hopegiving draw versus Newcastle United. KRC Genk finally managed to qualify for the next stage for the first time in their history and remain active in Europe as last Belgian representant.

Optimism is returning in Belgian football. However, this was after a dark decade in which we saw corruption scandals, bad results, and most dramatic: the loss of some traditional clubs. Perhaps most dramatically was the death of RWDM, along with neighbours Union St Gilloise the true "people’s club" in Brussels (Anderlecht fans and players come from all over the nation rather than having a specific Brussels identity) and a club with a very long and complex tradition. A tradition that will never be forgotten. But is there also a future for the popular team from St Jans Molenbeek? A few people are trying to revive the memory of the club or even the club itself, although such attempts so far have been not very succesful.

First of all we need to have a brief look at why RWDM was so iconic. It was the result of several mergers. Unlike most merged teams, this team however had a long tradition because the clubs merging all were amongst the oldest clubs in the country.

One of the first clubs to exist in Belgium was Daring Club Bruxelles, which would later rename itself Daring Molenbeek. The club predated the 20th century and when matricule numbers were introduced later on by the Belgian FA, the club received the nr 2. Only Royal Antwerp FC had an older number. The club, playing in black and red, was highly iconic and played most of its existance in what is now the Edmond Machtensstadion. The club was a true "people’s club", an identity that would be preserved after the merger. Their main rivals initially were Union St Gilloise, until after the second World War, when Anderlecht started to rise to the top of Belgian football and become a main rival of Daring. Distance between both stadiums: maximum 2 kilometers.

Only few kilometers further down the road, Racing Club Bruxelles was founded. They received the matricule number 6. They used several grounds during their existance, but most notoriously was the Ganzenvijver stadium in Uccle (the oldest stadium in Belgium, still used for hockey games nowadays) and the Stade des Trois Tilleuls in Watermael-Boitsfort. The latter has a capacity of over 50000 people and is in fact the biggest stadium in the country. As most of the ground are terraces without safety regulations, top football is impossible here, although teams from lower amateur divisions still play football here in this stadium to date.

Finally, on the other side of the capital, in Woluwe-St-Lambert, White Star received the matricule number 47. They played in several grounds during their existance, most known are the ground at the Rue Kelle (which still exists today but only the pitch, the terracing and stands are gone) and later on the Stade Fallon (which was also used for athletics).

The clubs did very well but after the second World War, things changed a lot. Anderlecht, not even a top team before the war, rapidly professionalised and started to rise, it quickly became the new force in Belgian football. RFC Liege and to lesser extent Antwerp, powerhorses before the war, lost their leading positions although occasional successes still happened and both clubs remained amongst the best supported clubs in Belgian football. Club Brugge KV had a few successes in the past, but in the sixties and seventies established itself as a top club to stay. They started winning more and more titles and fans, and even reached a European final. Finally, Standard Liege managed to keep its position as an imporant challenger to the top teams.

The success of Anderlecht just down the road, made other Brussels clubs realise they were losing more and more force and had to unite to overcome problems on the pitch or off the pitch (financial problems). Union Saint-Gilloise remained independent as only Brussels club which existed from the very start of Belgian football. The other clubs in the shadow of Anderlecht would at some point disappear or merge to survive. The latter was also done between RRC Bruxelles (who rarely filled their giant stadium and also didn’t perform well on pitch) and White Star. The clubs decided to join forces and maintain the matricule nr 47, in order to play in the Stade Fallon under the name Racing White. The matricule nr 6 was saved by a bureaucratic trick in which a loophole in the rules was used to pass on the matricule 6 de facto to KFC La Rhodienne (currently Rhodienne-De Hoek, who continue playing under matricule nr 6).

Sidenote: Woluwe FC, the current White Star Woluwe playing in second division in the Stade Fallon, was a different club alltogether. The only link is that they adopted the White Star name in order to keep the name alive. Other than that, they were a different story alltogether.

In 1973 the Woluwe based club RC White reached out to their friends in Molenbeek, the other side of Brussels. Both teams decided a merger was the best solution, and thus the matricule 2 was deleted and the both clubs merged under the nr 47 of RC White. The name of the new club became RWDM: Racing White Daring Molenbeek. They were invited to add the "Royal" to their name but while accepting the title, they are one of the very few clubs who decided not to include this title in the club name. RWDM would play in black-red-white colours in the Machtensstadium of Daring Molenbeek. It was an instant success and the club was rising high in the first years following the merger, even winning a national championship and playing in Europe several times.

While mergers are often frowned upon, RWDM was different. The fans immediately embraced the new team. The club became known as a true "people’s club", with a fanfare playing music non-stop during games as one of their most famous and most iconic features. The RWDM fanfare gained notoriety in the whole of Belgium.

But the dream wasn’t meant to last, and in 2002 after constant financial problems, RWDM could no longer pay off their debts and were officially dead.

Since then different people have tried to make RWDM rise again, or even claim their club is the rightful heir of the RWDM legacy. So far success is limited though, making one wonder if there is really a future for an RWDM revival or not. Let’s look at the attemps.

Johan Vermeersch, who was also president of RWDM before it disbanded, wanted to assure football would continued to be played in Molenbeek-St-Jean, one of the poorer communities within the capital district and with a large immigrant population. He did not want the Machtensstadium to remain unused, and also wanted a club with a good youth program to offer expat children a safe and healthy alternative for hanging around on unsafe streets.

At that moment there was a club from just outside the capital district playing in the second nationwide division: KFC Strombeek, from the village of Strombeek-Bever which bordered the capital district. The club however had few fans and their stadium De Singel was amongst the smallest at their level. Johan Vermeersch offered the club to relocate to the Machtensstadium in Molenbeek (inside Brussels Capital District) to fill in the vacant place left behind by RWDM. KFC Strombeek, matricule nr 1936, finished the season in the Molenbeek stadium and then made the relocation permanent: it changed its name to FC Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek, or abbreviated FC Brussels. It changed its club colours to red and black, like the old Daring Molenbeek, and fans of the old RWDM started to show strong attention to the new club. The club did well on the pitch and quickly promoted to the highest division. Also, in their first months under the new name, they were drawn against big neighbours and rivals Anderlecht for the Belgian Cup. I attended this game , Brussels took a shock lead but would eventually lose 1-5. But the public turnout and the ticket sales alone were reason enough to celebrate. Brussels was winning the sympathies of many former RWDM fans.

However, not all embraced the new club. For a small number of die-hard fans only a club using the initials RWDM could really claim the legacy of the old RWDM. They founded a new club and named it RWDM (to avoid an exact copy of the old club’s name they made it Racing Whitestar Daring Molenbeek, a small difference and the initials remained the same). They bought the rights to use the logo of the old RWDM and considered their club to be the true successor of the old RWDM. The plan was to start playing in the lowest league (8th level) but try to rise quickly, and play at the second pitch of the Machtensstadium where the old RWDM had its home. The latter never happened, leading to the new RWDM having to play at the extremely small pitch (no stands whatsoever) of the Stade Verbist in Molenbeek.

The club received matricule 9449. In 2006, three years after the start of this new RWDM, the club de facto merged with ZD Hulsbeek-Geetbets, from a town near Leuven. In fact this was only a merger de jure. De facto, ZDHG disappeared and RWDM took their vacant place in the highest provincial league, which is 5th division overall. This way RWDM promoted straight from the lowest to the highest provincial division. Games started to attract more people and RWDM seemed to be on their way back. Especially because FC Brussels could not save themselves from relegating back to second division, the new RWDM hoped it would continue to rise and make claim to be the real continuation of RWDM. However, the club took a leap a bit too far. Organisational and structural issues were torturing the club and their stint in the highest provincial level lasted just one year. They relegated twice in a row and would eventually relegate back to the lowest division, where they still play today. Meanwhile, they had changed their name to RWDM 2003. However, the expirement was not a success, and public turnout was very low. The club also had to switch between different grounds several times, currently being based in Ganshoren (neighbouring St-Jans-Molenbeek). Their reserves even have to go as far as Vilvoorde to play and train. Family of the players aside, nobody is attending their games anymore.

Meanwhile, FC Brussels was also going from bad to worse. Financial problems grew, and number of fans dropped more and more. Currently at the time of writing, the stadium with capacity over 15000, receives below 1000 people for the average FC Brussels home game. The club has now accepted an investment group from Dubai who want to invest in the club. It is a question mark whether this will turn around things for the better or not. The club still has a great youth program with a big multicultural touch, but one of the frustrations of FC Brussels is that the most talented youngsters are often taken away by other clubs just before they were close to reaching the first team of FC Brussels. At the time of writing FC Brussels struggles to survive in second division, after narrowly avoiding relegation also last year.

One other team from Brussels is doing great: White Star Woluwe FC. This club with matricule 5750 has risen to the second division (where FC Brussels also play) and this season won the first play-off ticket for possible promotion to the highest league. The club suddenly lost their most important financial resource but apparently they found a solution and look forward to playing the playoffs for promotion. The club has nothing to do with the ancient RWDM though. The club was founded in 1948 as FC Kapelleveld (a quarter whose pitch is literally up the hill above the Stade Fallon) and chose to play in amateur football. The club even played in Evere despite the name Kapelleveld. In 1950 the name was changed to Woluwe FC and 4 years later the club left the Labourers amateur league to affiliate with the Belgian FA proper. They initially played at the Stade Fallon but due to disputes with the community moved to the Kapelleveld district. In 1972 they moved back to the B pitch of the Stade Fallon, and one year later (when RC White merged with Daring Molenbeek) the main pitch of the Fallon complex became available. Woluwe FC had meanwhile become White Star Woluwe, adopting the White Star name after the initial White Star merged to form Racing White. Since then the club is on a steady rise and currently one of the better teams in second division.

There are however complaints. White Star Woluwe has a lack of fans and the old RWDM fanfare showing up now and then doesn’t really attract more fans to the Stade Fallon. The Stade Fallon, with its athletics track and relatively small stand, also doesn’t meet the criteria for top division football. The stadium of FC Brussels is perfect, but FC Brussels struggles on the pitch and fans of the old RWDM abandoned the club one by one. The RWDM 2003 initiative proved to be a total failure.

Former Belgian international Michel De Wolf still hopes to revive RWDM as the second big club in the capital district. We make a move away from the capital and head towards the border with Luxembourg, over 200 km away from Brussels and in the very southern tip of Belgium. There, a local team from the small village of Bleid, was rising rapidly since foundation. The club FC Bleid had matricule 9026 and with the help of a Luxembourgish investor climbed the hierarchy of Belgian football. The fact they initially had no ground in Bleid itself and had to play in neighbouring St Mard, proved no serious problem. FC Bleid in rapid tempo reached the third division. Then problems started, on the pitch but also finnacially. In 2011 the club announced it would go into administration. At the last moment though the club changed its mind and continued on their own rule. The name of the club was changed to FC Bleid-Gaume, refering to the Gaume area in the very southern point of Belgium.

One year later, in 2012, financial issues proved too much to handle and the club decided to disband. To recover some money they offered the matricule number 9026 for sale. The club buying this number would take over their position in third division. Michel De Wolf saw some big opportunities here and purchased the matricule. He then moved the club about 200 km away from Bleid and installed it into the capital city. It was too late to request a name change with the FA so the name FC Bleid-Gaume remained, but everyone (fans, media, …) call the club FC Bleid-Molenbeek. The colours were changed to the red and black of the old Daring Molenbeek and the intention remains to rename the club RWDM 47 at the end of this season and thus become the true heir of the old RWDM.

Of course this new incarnation of RWDM required to play in Molenbeek. An initial agreement to use the 3rd pitch of the Machtensstadium was eventually broken. The club thus had to play its first games as a homeless team. The first home game of FC Bleid-Molenbeek took place in Wemmel, the second home game was played in the stadium of Rebecq, and for the third home game no stadium was appointed in time, leading to a 0-5 forfait defeat. The club from the very start faced a lot of issues but the determination of Michel De Wolf remained intact. After some negotiating with the city council, the club was offered to play this season on the B pitch of the Stade Roi Baudoin in Laeken. The "Kleine Heizel" as it is sometimes called has 3 serious stands, and was already used by 5th divionist multicultural club Etoile Bruxelles Capitale (formerly known as Etoile Marocaine). Etoile however didn’t mind sharing the stadium with FC Bleid-Molenbeek. So for this season, Bleid had its home, but Michel De Wolf made it clear he hopes to find a new home stadium in Molenbeek for next season when the namechange to RWDM 47 will be made. During this name change the RWDM 2003 amateurs in the lowest provincial division, would be annexed by RWDM 47 (or FC Bleid, as you wish).

But FC Bleid-Molenbeek (let’s use this name as anyone else does) is undergoing a very tough maiden season. Large defeats followed in rapid tempo, and the club soon found itself bottom of the table in third division. The first ever victory was in the derby against neighbours Union St Gilloise: 2-0. The next weekend the return game at Union was already played, and despite the team doing quite well they’d eventually eventually lose 2-1 to Union. What was remarkable though: the public attendance. There were a lot of Bleid fans, some coming by bus, some walking to the Union stadium. The number of Bleid-Molenbeek fans was surprisingly high for a third division team which (ignoring the incarnation as FC Bleid in the Ardennes) is totally new and was struggling on the pitch. However, the fans didn’t seem to care. They were large in numbers, and important: they all wore RWDM flags and banners. While the number of fans going to FC Brussels is dropping dramatically, FC Bleid-Molenbeek immediately managed to attract a lot of fans of the old RWDM, and they also really used their RWDM banners and flags during the game. This could be an indication that despite the uncertain future, they consider FC Bleid-Molenbeek to be the new hope of a real RWDM revival.

While the public’s enthousiasm must be pleasing Michel De Wolf, the team kept on losing game after game and at the time of writing is bottom of the table with just 13 points. Possibly they will lose 7 or 10 of those points for putting a suspended player on the pitch, although the protest against this punishment is still awaiting an outcome. If they drop back to 3 or 6 points relegation to 4th division is a fact, even if the punishment would be overturned it will require a bit of a miracle to save the club from relegation. But Michel De Wolf remains optimistic: old RWDM fans seem to embrace the club, and next season the club name RWDM 47 should make the statement "we are the continuation of RWDM" very clear. De Wolf said to remain optimistic, even if the club would relegate.

So summarised: RWDM 2003 was a big failure, FC Brussels made a promising start to replace the old RWDM but meanwhile has few fans left and their financial survival may rely on the money the investors from Dubai promised, and FC Bleid Molenbeek seems to do attract and charm the old RWDM fans despite being in fact a club that was moved 200 km to Brussels after the people in Bleid decided not to continue their club there. But with big ambitions, with a name change to RWDM 47 coming up, and with the approval of many fans of the old RWDM, maybe FC Bleid-Molenbeek has the biggest chance to somewhat revive the RWDM feeling. But without knowing which stadium they’ll play in next season, question marks remain here as well.

The one club in this story that does well is White Star Woluwe, but they in fact have no relation to the clubs that used to form the original RWDM.

Under the idea to create a second big club in the capital and revive RWDM properly, fans of Brussels and White Star have been discussing the idea of a merger between their two clubs and FC Bleid-Molenbeek. It would unite the fans scattered across the three clubs, the financial means would be bigger if they’d merge, the club could continue playing in the Machtensstadium and the name RWDM or some small variant could be used. It sounds like a realistic plan rationally, for sure.

However, Michel De Wolf made it clear FC Bleid-Molenbeek already made their future plans and will not be considering mergers. Relegation to the 4th division won’t change this. So with the club attracting a fair part of the old RWDM fans stating they are not supporting the idea of a merger, the plan would be reduced to FC Brussels and White Star Woluwe alone and in that situation it is doubtful if a merger would make sense. On top of that Johan Vermeersch now found new financial investors in Dubai and is very keen on nobody touching the FC Brussels youth program. So it is doubtful if he is really supporting the idea of a merger.

So it seems in the end nothing will change and all three clubs have their own specific problems and with the fans of the old RWDM divided more and more across the different clubs that claim the legacy of RWDM. The situation is so sad to see that maybe we should wonder if it would not be more respectful to let RWDM rest in peace rather than risk to soil its heritage. But who knows, if Michel De Wolf is serious with his plans and doesn’t let a relegation scare him off, maybe there lies potential there. Finding a ground in Molenbeek itself may be the biggest obstacle for now.

To add to the confusion, Vincent Kompany (captain of the Belgian national team, ex RSC Anderlecht, currently with Manchester City) is willing to invest in a club in his native Brussels because he wants to offer a quality football education for the youth of the city. He first negotiated with WS Woluwe but apparently no agreement could be made. I am unaware if FC Brussels has been approached yet by him, but he certainly did talk to FC Bleid-Molenbeek. Michel De Wolf called the proposal and the idea of a financial injection from Kompany interesting enough to continue negotiating, and apparently shared Kompany’s concerns on assuring a good youth football program for the youngsters of the capital city.

In the margins of all of this, some other clubs existed with a remote connection to RWDM or its ancestors:

in the nineties an amateur team under the name Sporting Daring Club de Bruxelles existed. The team had matricule nr 9211 and to my knowledge played at the Vogelzang pitch in Anderlecht. The club only played amateur football in the lowest leagues though, and was short-lived.

The name Racing White de Woluwe was for a brief period also re-occuring: this was in fact the reserve team of White Star Woluwe who wanted to enter a normal league rather than a reserve teams’ league (in those days reserve teams were not allowed in regular leagues as it is now). So the reserves of White Star Woluwe were branded RC White Woluwe and given their own matricule nr 9432. They played on the B pitch of the Stade Fallon. To my knowledge, this initiative ceased to exist within the year. Still existing though but not really connected to RWDM in any way, is the women’s team FC Femina WS Woluwe, who play under matricule nr 9358 on the second pitch of the Stade Fallon.

The name RRC Bruxelles has also revived by a totally new club. In 1985 a new Racing Club Bruxelles was founded with matricule 9012. The club would after a few seasons merge with SK Watermael (matricule 7759) and finally in 1991 also with RRC Boitsfort (matricule 556). The notorious Racing Anderlecht (notorious for a never-seen-before-in-Belgium nr of goals against them, losing each game with scores going as high as 41-0) was annexed as well but that club would cease to exist anyway. The merger with RRC Boitsfort, who played in the Trois Tilleuls, means the new RRC Bruxelles was now also playing in the same huge stadium where the initial RRC Bruxelles played until approx 40 years earlier. Of course, despite the name and location, this is a totally new club. The club meanwhile has changed names again and adopted the name RRC Boitsfort again.

In 2005 a club was founded under the name RRC de Bruxelles 1891 (refering to the year the initial RRC Bruxelles was founded). They were given the matricule 9473. To my knowledge they disbanded within the year. I am unaware who was behind this club and if they played on a side pitch of the Trois Tilleuls or on the main pitch. I am unaware if there was any connection with RRC Boitsfort and why the club folded so rapidly (although this occurs quite often in Brussels that clubs cease to exist after just 1 year. There is even a notorious example of the club CongoSport Bruxelles who applied for FA membership, were given a matricule and were accepted as a member club, but again disbanded before having even played an official league game…)

Posted in Football, Football clubs, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

F91 Dudelange rising high for Luxembourgish football

I have a strange obsession with the minnows of European football. Both national teams and club teams. Each time I see the likes of Andorra, the Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Malta etc play, I hope they can cause upset (the sole exception being when they play one of my three favourite national teams ; in any other case I root for the minnows). It can be frustrating to see San Marino or Andorra lose game after game with humiliating scores. At the same time, this makes me just more charmed. These players don’t get paid or maximum they get their travel costs returned ; they often have to take time off work due to not being professional football players and thus maintaining a daytime job ; they do this while knowing they will likely lose with big scores. But still, each time they are there again, enthousiast and dedicated as ever. For the love of the game, for the honour of their country. Yes, I like the teams from San Marino, Luxembourg, the Faroes, … I even have a Faroese fan scarf which I received in a Dublin pub while drinking with a Faroese fan after the World Cup qualifier Ireland-Faroe Islands in, if I remember well, 2004. There were about 2000 Faroese fans in Dublin ; a large number for a remote archipelago with less than 50000 inhabitants.

Another one I love is Luxembourg. I visited the country often. Echternach, Wiltz, … lovely little idyllic villages. The capital may be mostly known for banking and politics, but there’s a lot of parks, a lovely valley with a very high bridge overlooking the hills and the river deep below, a lot of charming cafes, … A lovely city. I also was close to visiting the national stadium but sadly enough it was locked. But Luxembourg is somewhat different from those other minnows. They have actually upset big teams from time to time and have produced some players that were actually quite good. Remember the likes of Strasser or, ealier, Hellers.

I remember the qualifiers for the 1996 European Championship. Luxembourg managed to impress the world by getting 10 points. Unseen for a nation that small. Amongst that impressive campaign was a victory against the later vice-champion of Europe. The Czechs lost not a single game in the campaign except the final vs Germany (on golden goal rule) and … the qualifier in Luxembourg. Tiny Luxembourg beat the later runners-up of the Euro 1996. A shock victory with a Guy Hellers goal. Later shocks the Luxembourgish would cause include, more recently, for example a 1-2 victory away to Switzerland in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. Qualifying for a tournament would require a miracle, but Luxembourg is also not the type of team where you can send your reserve team and expect an easy 0-5 victory.

The league of Luxembourg is amateurish with maybe a handful of professionals and some semi-pros. But that doesn’t mean the league is bad. It is of course, compared to the big leagues and even to neighbouring leagues such as the Dutch or Belgian ones. But still, some Luxembourgish teams now and then cause surprise results in Europe. The last two weeks were totally sensational for football fans in Luxembourg thanks to a team from the southern town of Dudelange, or Diddeleng in Luxembourgish language. Just over 18000 people in a town in the very south of the small country, bordering France. The local team F91 caused sensation in Europe by first winning the first qualifying round game in the Champions League qualifiers with an aggregate score of 11-0 and then eliminating the money-swamped team from Salzburg. The story so far of F91 Dudelange’s European campaign 2012-2013.

F91 Dudelange… The name makes me smile. My first and so far only game of the Luxembourgish league I witnessed included Dudelange. It was a 10 or 11 years ago, the game was FC Wiltz 71 (Wolz in Letzebuergish) against Dudelange. I made the day trip with a fellow groundhopper. We first crossed a bit of the Belgian Ardennes and photographed the stadium of Rochefort. Then we continued the trip to the country of Luxembourg where we arrived in Wiltz. A very charming town on a hill with an equally charming stadium. The stadium was on bottom of the hill and so from the stadium you could see the hill in the background with the colourful houses on the hill. Very idyllic I must say. I also remember the stadium speaker and most of the audience spoke Luxembourgish (Letzebuergish) rather than French or German, and that Dudelange’s fans made the trip by a supporters bus. I thought that was odd given the fact that long distances do not exist in a country as small as Luxembourg. It was a very pleasant day out, even when it started raining cats and dogs during the second half. One, obviously drunk, fan of Dudelange, did not mind and with bare chest exposing his overweight body he shouted "Oh Diddeleng" or "Allez Diddeleng" all the second half long, not realising the whole stadium was looking at him and not minding getting totally wet by the pouring rain. I think the guy was too drunk to even remember anything that happened on the pitch. If my memory doesn’t let me down the final result was 2-2. Spectator numbers around 400. Cosy and nice, just as the village of Wiltz and its hillside houses itself. The level of the game: nothing special but also not bad. I asked one person if the players were professional. His answer (in German as I do not speak Luxembourgish) was "Amateure mit Taschengeld". Translated: amateurs with a small payment for games won. Which must be quite a financially interesting hobby for Dudelange who have been winning a lot of games and trophies in the last decade.

The club has won every single Luxembourgish championship since the new millennium, except for 3. In those same 12 seasons they also won 4 cups. The club was formed in 1991 (hence the name) when three clubs merged: Alliance Dudelange, Stade Dudelange and US Dudelange. The club plays its games at the Stade Jos Nosbaum with capacity just over 2500. At the time of the merger, Alliance was struggling to survive at the 2nd level of Luxembourgish football while the other 2 were in division 3. In those days, Jeunesse d’Esch was the strongest club by far in Luxembourg. The merger proved to be a success as the club promoted to the top level at first attempt and has since then changed the football landscape in the tiny nation.

Dudelange not only started winning trophies domestically but also became Luxembourg’s first club to proceed to the second qualifying round of the Champions League. This was in the 2005-2006 season. Dudelange lost the initial game against HŠK Zrinjski Mostar (from Bosnia-Herzegowina) 0-1. Out in the first qualifying round as usual with Luxembourgish clubs, everyone thought. Well, no, not this time. The return in Bosnia and Herzegowina was sensational however: in the third minute of added time (!!!) the Luxembourgers made it 0-1 to get extra time, and in that extra time scored 3 more goals. A Luxembourgish team surviving a Champions League qualifier was unseen, and 0-4 wins away from home were totally sensational. The whole nation was suddenly behind Dudelange. Rapid Wien ended the success story in the next round but the 0-4 win in Bosnia-Herzegowina alone was good enough to have made that European campaign a success.

So yes, Dudelange is a powerhouse in the national football. I am not a gloryhunter usually, but still I sort of like this club. I like Luxembourg as a country and with their teams well in general. And whenever I hear the name Dudelange I think back of that rainy day in Wiltz with the drunk guy shouting "Diddeleng" the entire second half, getting more attention than the players on the pitch. Nice memories.

Hence, I was very glad to see the club booking new success now. As often the last decade, Dudelange won the domestic championship last season and started in the first qualifiying round of the Champions League 2012-2013. This one is for the weakest leagues only as the other participants were from Northern Ireland (the usual Linfield FC), the Faroe Islands, Andorra, Malta and San Marino. In such a qualifying round, a Luxembourgish team would even be favourites to proceed. When Dudelange was tied to San Marinese champions Tre Penne, an 11-0 aggregate score was realised. On 3rd July, Dudelange won 7-0 in the own Jos Nosbaum stadium, and won the return 0-4 on 10th July in the national stadium of San Marino in Serravalle. 11-0, never seen before from a Luxembourgish team. Even if we remind that the opponents were from San Marino, this result was stunning. Victory was expected, but not this large.

On 17th July, the second qualifying round brought FC Salzburg to Luxembourg. Regulars in the European leagues, nobody gave Dudelange a chance but this was one of those nights when magic happened and proved that football is sometimes, just sometimes, just as unpredictable as in the old days. A goal by Aurélien Joachim 15 minutes before the end gave Dudelange a surprise 1-0 win. Nice, most thought, but this will just be a goodbye in style after the return game will be easily won by Salzburg.

Wrong again. 24th July, Stadion Salzburg, in northern Austria. Dudelange defended their lead against the full-time professionals with European experience from Austria. Steinmetz caused a shock lead for Dudelange halfway the first half ; suddenly Salzburg needed 3 goals to proceed. Jantscher quickly made it 1-1 and before half-time Salzburg made it 2-1 through Hinteregger. Dudelange at half time still through on away goals but one Austrian goal would be fatal. What happened after half time however was beyond anyone’s belief: not Salzburg but Dudelange marked… twice!! Joachim and Steinmetz put the 2-3 on the scoreboard. For those who were fully realising this was not just some surreal dream, it became clear Salzburg now needed 3 more goals to proceed. The Austrians pushed forward but with just 10 minutes left still trailed 2-3. Then Dudelange made it difficult for themselves by letting in 2 goals in 2 minutes time (from Cristiano on penalty and from Zárate). In just two minutes time, qualification seemed in danger: Salzburg had another 8 minutes and just 1 more goal would make the dream of Dudelange burst. But this didn’t happen and the Luxembourgers managed to hold on to the 4-3 score, sending them through on away goals rule. For the ambitious Austrians, European football is already over for this season.

The accompishment of Dudelange is huge. Even if it is against a Sanmarinese team, an 11-0 aggregate score is huge for a Luxembourgish team. And eliminating Salzburg was beyond anyone’s highest hopes. The reward is a next tie, when Dudelange face Maribor from Slovenia. 1st August in Maribor, return on 8th August in Dudelange. I am quite sure the entire nation is behind the team right now. And I too wish them well. Or, let’s join the drunk guy for a moment and shout: "Allez Diddeleng!!"

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Thor Akureyri seeking another 5-1 win

Iceland has never been a football powerhouse. A few victories against big national teams have been there now and then, but the team never came close to reaching a big tournament. Club football has never been of any major importance neither. Icelandic clubs grasp a victory in the qualifiers for the Champions League and Europa League now and then, but never proceeded to the actual tournaments. The Nordic island, closer to Greenland than to the rest of Europe, may have a surface of 103,000 km2 but the inland is totally desolate (not even roads ! Just really "nothing") and the few scattered settlements along the coast only host approx 320000 people. Not exactly what you need to become a football powerhouse. Almost 120000 live in the capital, Reykjavik, known for its nightlife and vibrant city life. Include surrounding towns and over 202000 people live in or near the capital, which indicates how few people live elsewhere on the island. Not really total emptiness but some towns of just 2000 or 3000 people still count as regional centers because of the lack of places with more citizens nearby. A good example is Vík í Mýrdal which is the southernmost village on mainland Iceland ; it hosts not even 300 citizens but is the regional center for an area as far as 70 km away of the town.

Football in Iceland thus is dominated too by teams from the area of Reykjavik, with several top flight teams in the capital (Fram, Fylkir, KR, Valur, …) or near the capital. Hafnarfjörður, with 26000 inhabitants a "big town" for Icelandic standards, has one team in the top flight, and then we have some teams from less expected locations such as IBV from Vestmannaeyjar (an archipelago off coast to the south of Iceland) and IA from Akranes by the west coast of the island (their stadium Akranesvollur is known to be literally at the shore, with balls kicked high over the stand falling into the chilly sea). The north of Iceland is rarely presented in the highest level of football.

This made the European campaign of Akureyri’s Thor the more remarkable. Akureyri is in the very north of Iceland, the only town/city of reasonable size along the north coast. It is the second largest urban area of the country (after Reykjavik) but the town itself is only the 4th largest in the nation after Reykjavik, Hafnarfjördur and Kópavogur. Just below 18000 souls live in this city, nicknamed the "Capital of North Iceland" or, more poetic, the "Capital of the Bright North". The Arctic Circle is only a 100 km further north even though the climate is mild and the port is ice-free all year. The town is remote to say the least. Football teams from the city rarely have been succesful. Until two weeks ago suddenly Íþróttafélagið Þór (for the sake of making things easy, let’s call them Thor Akureyri from now on) caused a shock in Europe.

Thor is not a big club in Iceland. It is an omnisports club with football just being one of the sports played. To my knowledge (but my lack of Icelandic language knowledge doesn’t help when visiting their website) the club never really achieved anything big. The club has spent most of the recent millennium in the second division of Icelandic football, the 1.deild. In 2010 the club promoted as runners-up to champions Vùikingur Reykjavik, reaching the top division (Úrvalsdeild) for the first time since 2002. The adventure in the Úrvalsdeild didn’t last longer than 1 season: the club finished second from bottom and relegated again. Still, the club qualified for European football due to reaching the final of the Icelandic Cup. In that final, KR from the capital Reykjavik was too strong: 2-0. As KR was already champions of Iceland, Thor Akureyri still qualified for the qualifiers for the Europa League 2012-2013.

Drawn against Bohemian FC from Dublin, Ireland, few gave the north Icelandic amateurs (now playing in second division again) any chance. Bohemian was already focussed on the next round even though, as usual, a warning to not underestimate the opponent, was probably spoken. 5th July 2012 Thor travelled to the Irish capital and grasped a 0-0 draw to take home to northern Iceland. Some players celebrated this draw quite enthousiastically, which caused upset by some Bohemian fans. Those were however still confident that their team would finish it off against the second division amateurs from Iceland, and a few tens of Bohs fans made the very long trip to the far north of Iceland for the second leg.

12th July then witnessed a huge shock. Even although at first, nothing indicated this shock would occur. Bohemian, backed by a few tens of fans who made the long journey to north Iceland, faced the Dubliners in the return leg in their own Thorsvöllur stadium in Akureyri. Capacity maximum 1000, probably just below. I wonder if this was the same stadium where in 1999 Anderlecht played Leiftur from the even further northern village of Ólafsfjörður. Their ground did not meet the criteria to host the game (an idyllic fjord can be seen from their ground but it would in Belgium be good enough maximum for 5th or 6th level) so the game was played in Akureyri. I still remember vaguely the small stand and the cars passing by in the background. It was really really small. If that was the same Thorsvöllur where Thor faced Bohemian or if it was another Akureyri based ground is unknown to me. But anyway, two weeks ago Bohemian FC from Dublin played Thor Akureyri in the Europa League qualifiers, there in Thorsvöllur in northern Iceland. When halfway the first half Scully made it 0-1 to the Irishmen, it seemed the minutes of fame for Thor were over. However, by half time the Dubliners defense gave away 2 goals and the Icelandic second division team, all amateur players, were leading 2-1. Was a surprise in the making? Yes, it was.

Bohemian, one of the bigger teams with the longest history in the football of the Republic of Ireland, showed a very shaky defense and the Icelandic audience could not believe their eyes when the home team marked 3 more goals. After 90 minutes, the unbelievable result was on the scoreboard: Thor Akureyri 5 – Bohemian FC 1. Aggregate score: 5-1 to the second division team from the northern Icelandic city. A huge humiliation for the visitors, a surreal result for the home team. Goal scorers for Thor Akureyri were Hjaltalin, Kristjùansson (3 times !) and Bohs added an own goal by Feely to the tally.

In Ireland, football fans hoping the coefficient of Irish football would rise again this season, reacted furiously. Bohs were humiliated and were laughed at by the fans of almost all other teams. There was anger too because of the consequences for the UEFA coefficient of the League of Ireland. How on earth could a well established team like Bohemian lose 5-1 against a bunch of amateurs playing in the second division in Iceland?! Some Bohs fans admitted this was embarrasing, some tried to seek excused but failed to find any. To make matters worse for the Irish football, St Patrick’s Athletic lost as well to an Icelandic side. In the extreme other outpost of Iceland, the Vestmannaeyjar islands south of the south coast, local islands IBV won 2-1 after extra time, with the sole consolidation for Irish football that St Pats still proceeded due to having won the first leg in Dublin 1-0. But what was talked about most was the 5-1 in northern Iceland.

To show how huge this performance was is not hard to do. First of all, it rarely happens Icelandic teams book wins in Europe, and big wins such as a 5-1 are very rare. Secondly, teams not playing in the premier division of their country’s league rarely book wins in Europe. Combine these two facts, and realise an Icelandic second division amateur outfit won a European game 5-1, is almost surreal. The result may be unnoticed by the big audience, but Thor Akureyri deserve praise for this. Lots of praise. This achievement was stunning.

On 19th July 2012 the second qualifying round brought Thor Akureyri the very long travel to the Czech team of Mladá Boleslav. Two goals by Magera gave the locals a 2-0 lead at half-time and at the end the result was 3-0 as Šćuk scored another one for the home side. To proceed to the next stage, Thor would need another big win, for example another 5-1 victory, in the second leg. I wish them the best of luck.

Of course it would take a miracle for Thor to qualify. But I also doubt anyone in Akureyri cares. The 5-1 victory versus Bohemian was a bit of Icelandic football history, so their campaign is already a success, no matter what the result this week will be. Thor can be very very proud of what they achieved. Northern Iceland is on the football map again. No matter what happens when the club faces Mladá Boleslav again this week. Congrats to Thor Akureyri and, dare I say?, best of luck!

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