Always, but always, the second side in Belgium’s second city of Bruges, Cercle were in their pomp during the inter-war years. The Groen-en-Zwart (‘Green-and-Blacks’) are universally revered, not least for being the first club from Flanders to win the Belgian Championship, way back in 1911. The last league title came in 1930.
With AS Monaco becoming the club’s majority shareholder in 2017, Cercle have been able to raise their game. In 2018, the vital last-minute penalty that secured promotion to the top flight came from on-loan Frenchman Irvin Cardona, a member of Monaco’s title-winning squad the season before.
Cercle were founded by former students of the Sint-Franciscus Xavelus Institut in 1899. An amiable rivalry with the more down-to-earth Club was soon established.
The star name of these early days was Florimond van Halme, a centre-half who led the Green and Blacks to the double in 1927, and title in 1930. He retired thereafter.
Much of the next four decades was spent flitting between divisions before the club’s move to the Olympiastadion in the 1970s attracted a better class of foreign player. Former Danish international captain Morten Olsen spent a couple of seasons here but the team’s only modern-day honour has been the cup win over Beveren in 1985, decided on the penalty spot.
The man of the 1990s was Josip Weber, a Croat-born striker who ran out for Belgium at the 1994 World Cup. His 130 goals were notched in only six seasons before he left – inevitably – for Anderlecht.
Cercle remained top flight in 2013-14 despite finishing last place in the Pro League in 2012-13. A play-off with Beerschot not only condemned the Antwerp club to relegation but helped put them out of business entirely. In the final relegation play-offs against top teams from the lower flight, Cercle became the first Pro League team to survive the challenge from below at that stage. Goal difference gave the Green and Blacks the edge over Mouscron-Péruweiz.
Sadly, Cercle’s luck ran out in 2015, which saw a cup semi-final defeat at the hands of local rivals Club, compounded by relegation from the Pro League.
Monégasque money has since changed Cercle’s circumstances. As well as several loanees from Monaco, the current Cercle squad includes Kylian Hazard, younger brother of top Belgian international Eden.
Cercle share the Jan Breydelstadion with their better-known neighbours, Club. Cercle fans prefer the South, swimming-pool (‘Bad’) end.
Once Club move out to their new-build arena, possibly in 2022, Cercle will adapt the Jan Breydelstadion for their own more modest purposes, reducing capacity to four figures and monetising other parts of the ground.
Tickets, shop & bar
Attendances for Cercle games at the 29,000-capacity Jan Breydel hover around the 8,000 mark. Currently getting a Cercle ticket is rarely problematic. The office operates Mon-Fri 1.30pm-5.30pm, and Sat 10am-noon depending on when the game takes place. Match-day sales are also possible – you don’t need a membership card.
Alternatively you can purchase online.
Tickets start at a reasonable €15 in the North Stand and rise to €20-€35 in the West. For Topwedstrijden – for the visits of Antwerp, Genk and Liège – prices rise by about €5. For Superwedstrijden (Club, Anderlecht and Gent), it’s €20 in the North Stand, €25-€80 in the West. Under-18s receive a €5-€10 discount in the North Stand for all matches.
The ticket office, Kring 99 Bar and club shop are all clustered near each other at the South-West corner of the ground, blok 113/123.
The bar has a welcome terrace that overlooks the training pitch, the club shop and a monument to Cercle players who fell in global conflict.