And the winner is… Union St-Gilloise, hands down the best stadium bar in Belgium! Sadly, though, this venerable Brussels club last appeared in the country’s top division in 1972-73. Sticking to top-flight only – as featured in the downloadable Libero Guide to Belgium 2019-20 – here are our Top 5 stadium bars in the Belgian First Division A.
Before we start, a little background and a couple of honourable mentions. Belgian football bars are things of beauty. While the match-day experience over the border in France or across the Channel may differ little from any visit to a megaplex (a Belgian invention!), hostelries in this charming little country brim with tradition and character, multicoloured league ladders dutifully updated by the bar, varied beers on tap and by the bottle.
Avenue Théo Verbeeck alongside Anderlecht was once lined with them – now only a couple remain. Bars near Standard Liège buzz before any game, though the actual stadium outlet is a bit meh. Oh, and Zulte-Waregem have the best pre-match bar nowhere near the stadium – take a bow, De Karekiet!
Right, enough pre-match analysis – someone get ’em in!
5 KV Kortrijk/De Kouter
Match-day bar at the Guldensporenstadion, named after a medieval battle and home of KV Kortrijk, De Kouter is equipped with that essential accoutrement as kick-off approaches: a ping-pong table. Alternatively, of course, if De Kerels have lost (a seven-time occurrence here in 2019-20 before the coronavirus shutdown), KVK fans can replay the match over the table-tennis net. The sign above the door reads: ‘Kerels know why’. Obviously!
4 KRC Genk/Themacafé
Venturing slightly into the realm of the bland, Genk’s Themacafé saves the day thanks to the striking black-and-white match-day images artistically displayed over the walls, a Cup Final menu and lashings of Cristal beer.
3 KAS Eupen/Café Penalty
OK, this is cheating a bit as KAS Eupen is practically in Germany, and the Penalty, Panenka-like wonder that it is, isn’t physically part of the Kehrwegstadion, rather in a house an Elfmeter kick away. Plus (groan!) Eupen is all Qatari-owned. Set against that is Eupener beer. There. Argument won! Oh, and the sausage grill sizzles and fans gather for away-match screenings.
2 Club Bruges/FCB Kaffee
We can’t really run a feature on football bars in Belgium and not include Club – we’ll be lynched! Actually, there are two supporters’ pubs at the groundshare Jan Breydelstadion, one for Club, the other for Cercle, on the same side of the stadium. The FCB Kaffee is a treat though, with a bar counter the length of ’t Zand, lined with scarves from fabulously obscure European visitors. Can you imagine the lagoons of Jupiler Ružomberok fans must have swam through? As the Club motto says, ‘No Sweat, No Glory’.
1 KV Oostende/Club 31
Drum roll, please! ‘No Sweat, No Beer’ is Ostend’s answer to the boys from Bruges, an apt riposte plastered over the door of this quite magnificent stadium bar. OK, there’s a holiday vibe to factor in, as you’re probably three minutes’ walk from the beach – where L’Empereur is an equally tempting pre-match choice. You’re also whisked here by the swish Kusttram, running parallel to the sea. But, taking all that into account, for atmosphere, photographic decoration (a pictorial history of KVO) and careless imbibing, Ostend it is. If it was good enough for Marvin Gaye…