The story of football in German-speaking Eupen, a pretty town just over the border from Aachen, involves three countries: Belgium, Germany and Qatar.
Until the end of World War I, Eupen was part of Germany and the first clubs founded here a decade earlier were Football Club Fortuna Eupen 1908 and Eupener Ballspielverein.
After the post-war Versailles settlement, Eupen became part of Belgium. Between the conflict and the frontier change, these clubs had become Verein für Jugend and Volkspiele eV Eupen. After 1920, they fused to form Jeunesse d’Eupen. Soon afterwards another outfit, Football Club Eupen, aka FC Eupen 1920, was also created.
Following the German occupation of World War II, these two clubs merged into Alliance Sportive Eupen, and a ground was built on Kehrweg, at the far south-east of town towards the border.
As the German-speaking Community of Belgium gained regional autonomy, so the flagship club of its capital became Allgemeine Sportvereinigung Eupen, later Köningliche Allgemeine Sportvereinigung Eupen, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1995.
And a solitary season in the top flight, in 2010-11, probably would have been the extent of the achievements of KAS Eupen were it not for the arrival of a group of representatives of the Qatari royal family in March 2012.
With the club struggling, the Qataris saw in Eupen the perfect opportunity to introduce young African talent from their Aspire Academy. Heading the football arm of Aspire was Andreas Bleicher, who had worked with the German Olympic set-up. Integral to a strategy to gain Qatar international sporting recognition and give its potential national-team players European experience, Aspire bought three clubs, two in Spain… and Eupen.
From 2012-13, half the KAS squad hailed from Africa, later, Spain. KAS made the promotional play-offs three seasons running, returning to the top flight in 2016.
Qatar, meanwhile, won the Asian Cup for the first time in 2019, with ex-Eupen forward Almoez Ali the tournament’s top scorer.
Although attendances are often the lowest in the Belgian League, the 3,000 gate represents a town of 20,000 people, of a German-speaking region that forms under 1% of the national total in Belgium.
Fans in black-and-white scarves also regularly make the choice between Eupen and Standard Liège half an hour down the road, and the biggest club stadium and arguably best atmosphere in Belgium.
Nearby Liège and Maastricht Aachen airports mainly serve package-holiday destinations. The nearest main airports of Cologne Bonn and Düsseldorf are around 110km (68 miles) away. Each has a rail terminal, with direct trains to Aachen or to the city centre in order to change for Aachen. Close to Aachen station, half-hourly (hourly Sun) bus No.14 sets off for Eupen. Overall journey time is around 2hrs/2hrs 30min, advance online tickets around €20.
Eupen station is north-west of the town centre a 10min walk away, but the stadium is way south-east. Liège buses serve the region, single tickets €2.50 purchased on board, valid for 1hr.
Local Taxi Elegance (+32 488 404 072) also offers airport transfers.
The nearest lodging to the stadium, the four-room B&B Eupen Inn, set in the greenery of Panorama the other side of Kehrweg, is run by a friendly couple.
Also rustic, closer to town but still walking distance to the stadium, the Hotel Sleep Wood on Neustraße offers comfortable, mid-range accommodation with attractive half-board deals.
Right on the main square of Markt, Hotel Zum Goldenen Anker is a homely, mid-range choice with a café/restaurant attached, in a building dating back to the 1700s. There’s free parking for guests nearby.
Local Eupener Bier is brewed by Haacht in Boortmeerbeek. Note that Eupen may be German-speaking but it supports Belgium whenever there’s a major tournament on, with Red Devils flags flown everywhere. A big screen is set up by the carnival clown statue at Am Clown.
Hostelries cluster around little junctions in the town centre. At the corner of Bergstraße and Auf ‘m Bach, the Café Columbus is a great little football bar, running youth and veterans teams, with a TV for match-watching and an annual Eupener beer festival. Round the corner, Ratskeller is a traditional restaurant in a building dating back to 1714 but is also used as a bar, with a TV for sport. Further up Klötzerbahn, Tam-Tam also screens matches.
By the junction of Paveestraße and Hufengasse, the revered Old Inn reopened in 2019 under new management. Sadly, on Werthplatz, the wonderful Marktschänke and its Seeburg jukebox have yet to find new owners after serving older locals for generations. Nearby Pigalle is still the town’s main music bar, while the Bistro Am Werth shows live games and serves homely meals.