KAS Eupen date back to 1945 but as a top-flight proposition with wider multinational ties, this club is a recent phenomenon.
Based in German-speaking Belgium, Eupen have always straddled borders but today’s operation is very much a global one. In 2012, two years after the Pandas had spent a solitary season in the top-tier Eerste Klasse, they were bought for an initial investment of under €5 million by the Qatar-based Aspire Academy.
With the aim of giving African players experience in Europe before they fully develop in Qatar, Aspire also oversees two clubs in Spain, which in turn means that Eupen’s squad is mainly pooled from West Africa, Iberia and Belgium.
The result has been four consecutive seasons in the Eerste Klasse, after three runs into a play-off position in the second-tier Tweede. Although gates are low – Eupen has a population of under 20,000 – player development is the policy here, rather than instant profit.
The KAS in KAS Eupen stands for Köningliche Allgemeine Sportvereinigung, a name that was adopted on the club’s 50th anniversary in 1995. Before then, the team ran out as simply Allgemeine Sportvereinigung Eupen, which retained the French acronym of Alliance Sportive Eupen, created only two months after hostilities ceased in Europe in 1945.
Transferred from Germany to Belgium after World War I, Eupen had suffered terrible damage during the Ardennes Offensive in the final throes of World War II. A new football ground was built away from the ruined town centre, on Kehrweg on the verdant south-western outskirts close to the German border.
AS Eupen were, in fact, a merger of Jeunesse d’Eupen and FC Eupen, formed in the aftermath of World War I. Before 1914, there were also FC Fortuna Eupen 1908 and Eupener Ballspielverein but whether German or Belgian in nature, football here stayed at local level until AS Eupen joined the fourth-tier Liège Provincial League in 1950.
It took nearly two decades before Eupen gained promotion, but then another followed for the Pandas to reach the Second Division in 1970. In 1974, with former Alemannia Aachen goalkeeper Gerd Prokop between the sticks, Eupen even reached the play-offs for the Eerste Klasse, attracting striker Horst Heese for the 1974-75 campaign. Once considered as the replacement for Uwe Seeler at Hamburg, Heese had five years of Bundesliga experience but he failed to see out the season at Eupen and relegation was the end result.
It wasn’t until 2002 that Eupen reached the same level and another eight seasons before the long-awaited promotion to the top fight was achieved.
The stay was short-lived. The Pandas lost top-tier status in byzantine fashion after a best-of-five (!) relegation play-off series with Charleroi, followed by a winless performance in the final group, Mons gaining revenge for losing out to Eupen the previous season.
The arrival of Aspire in 2012 came with Eupen financially on the ropes. Under former Espanyol coach Tintin Márquez, the club made two consecutive promotion play-offs before his compatriot assistant, Jordi Condom, was brought in.
Luck played a hand in 2016 second-flight runners-up Eupen reclaiming automatic promotion, doomed champions White Star Brussels not receiving a licence to join the Eerste Klasse.
In 2017, with a swift return to the Second on the cards, management brought in former Chelsea star Claude Makélélé to steady the ship as coach. He did keep Eupen up but only after a highly unusual last day of the season in 2018, when the Pandas notched the goals required to sink Mouscron and Mechelen kept their scoreline to 2-0. ‘Das Wunder vom Kehrweg’ duly went down as a miraculous landmark in club history.
For the 2019-20 campaign, Eupen once more turned to Spain, and globe-trotting Beñat San José as coach, with former Swansea and Spain U21 international Jordi Amat as centre-back.
Opened in 1947, the Kehrwegstadion has been revamped three times, most notably in 2010, the near complete rebuild in line with promotion, and all but bankrupting KAS Eupen. The Qataris of Aspire jumped in to snap up a club desperately in need of money, but with a decent stadium (and grass pitch) for young African hopefuls to showcase their skills.
Three seated stands, a home standing end and a terrace (T1bis) tacked onto main Tribune 1 comprise an overall capacity of 8,363, plenty for the club with the lowest average gate in the top division.
Away fans are allocated seats and standing places in Block B of Tribune 4, accessed through Gate E4 on Kehrweg. Pandas fans have the choice between sitting and standing in Tribune 2 at the opposite end. The best seats are in sectors D and E of Tribune 3, and C and D of Tribune 1.
The stadium is way south of town, a good 20min walk. Bus No.725 runs every 30min from Hookstraße, a 5min stroll from Eupen station towards town, to Kehrweg every 30min, journey time 5min. In between, it calls at Werthplatz, so you can catch it in town, too.
Availability is almost never a problem at Eupen and tickets go on sale around two weeks before each game. The stadium ticket office usually opens on Thursdays (4pm-7pm) and Saturdays (11am-2pm). Take ID with you.
Online sales for everywhere but Tribune 1 operate up to 3hrs before kick-off. Tickets for Tribune 1 can be bought at the stadium on match days only.
For all queries, contact email@example.com.
Before kick-off, the ticket windows open 1.5hrs before kick-off for category A-B games, 2hrs for category C games, ie Anderlecht, Antwerp, Bruges, Charleroi, Liège, Genk and Gent.
Home and away fans in Tribunes 2 and 4 respectively pay €15, 6-15s €10, KAS supporters aged 16-21, students and seniors also granted admission at €11.
In sideline Tribune 3, it’s €25 (€20 seniors, €14 6-15s) in central sectors D/E, €20 (€15/€12) in sectors C, F/G and €15 (€12/€10) in outer sectors A/B. In the main stand, Tribune 1, you pay €30 (€15 6-15s) for a seat over the halfway line in sectors C/D, €25 (€14 6-15s) in sectors
A & E. Standing in Tribune 1bis, the terrace attached to Tribune 1, costs €15 (€10 6-15s).
Under fives are admitted free.
Eupen home shirts in black, away ones in white and change tops in red are stocked at the Chic Belgique store (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-2pm) at Paveestraße 24 in the town centre.
On match days, these and other souvenirs are also available at the Stadionfanshop and the Café Penalty at the ground.
Just by the roundabout before you get to the stadium, Macadam at Kehrweg 2 is more upscale bistro than bar but you can still pull up a stool and order a drink at the counter – although it only opens evenings from 5.30pm, and not at all on Sundays.
With the similarly upscale LightHouse, right by the ground, now closed, the only other option is the perfect match-day one for Pandas and neutrals: the Café Penalty, alongside the home end, Tribune 2. From 2hrs before kick-off, those with a ticket for Tribunes 1-3, ie not visiting supporters in Tribune 4, can access this standard but friendly bar where Eupener flows a-plenty. Outside on warmer days, tables and a sausage grill are also set up on the terrace. The Penalty also opens either side of training sessions and for the screening of KAS away games.