Its stadium closer to the French border than it is to the centre of this former textile town, Mouscron has witnessed a century of local football. But the date of 1922 proudly displayed on the red-and-white crest of Royal Excel Mouscron hides a multitude of mergers and bankruptcies.
In all that time, the Stade Le Canonnier, unveiled in 1930, has been a mainstay, though its name is swathed in mystery. A nearby bar comes into it though – it could refer to drinking a gallon or to the former gunner who ran the place.
Stade Mouscronnois had been formed eight years earlier, shortly after another club in town, Association Athlétique Mouscronnaise. They faced each other in regional leagues before Stade Mouscronnois made the national third tier in 1938.
There Stade Mouscronnois stayed, twice dropping to the fourth tier. Both local clubs were granted the right to add ‘Royal’ to their names in 1951 but Mouscron wasn’t big enough for the both of them – they merged in 1964 to create Royal Excelsior Mouscron.
Nicknamed Les Hurlus after Mouscron’s Calvinist partisans who clashed with the Catholics of Lille in the 16th century – a statue of one stands outside the Town Hall – the new club remained in the same lower rungs as its predecessors until two consecutive divisional wins in 1990 and 1991 opened the doors to the second tier.
Another promotion five years later took Mouscron to Division 1 and, thanks to a brief sojourn by the later capped Mpenza brothers, an immediate European place. The debut home leg in the UEFA Cup was played in Lille but renovation of Le Canonnier allowed Les Hurlus to host a further, equally short campaign in 2002.
Despite a decade of top-flight football, the club that Mouscron-born entrepreneur Philippe Dufermont took over in 2007 was in dire straits. Declared bankrupt in 2009, Mouscron played out the rest of the season with youngsters and reserves.
Losing divisional status and their matricule registration number of 224, Royal Excelsior Mouscron ceased to be and a new club was formed, a fusion with RRC Peruwelz from a town the other side of Tournai from Mouscron. Formed in 1921, RRC Peruwelz had hardly set the world alight in the 20th century but had crept up to the third tier in 2006.
Punished with a 26-point penalty for fielding an illegible player in 2009-10, Peruwelz had fallen down a flight and so a merger with Mouscron made sense. Based at the Stade Le Canonnier, Mouscron Peruwelz adopted colours of red (Mouscron) and blue (Peruwelz), kept the nickname Les Hurlus and bought the matricule registration number 216.
Two consecutive promotions and Les Hurlus reached Division 2 in 2012. With investment from LOSC Lille across the border, the club, now Royal Mouscron-Peruwelz, made Division 1 in 2014.
Always struggling at the top level, and with fans unhappy about French influence in the boardroom, the club became Royal Excel Mouscron in 2016, and was bought by a consortium under Israeli superagent Pini Zahavi.
Narrowly avoiding relegation in 2017 and 2018, Mouscron survived a legal attempt by Peruwelz to reinstate the merged club’s name in 2019. REM remain a top-flight proposition, though always on a financial knife-edge.
The nearest airport to Mouscron is Lille, 40km (25 miles) away, 7km (4.5 miles) south of this main city just over the border in France. There’s no direct transport links with Mouscron, so take the hourly shuttle bus (single €8, return €10) to the Euralille commercial centre in town, journey time 20 mins. Euralille is set between the city’s two train stations, Lille Europe and Lille-Flandres, a short walk apart and close to the centre.
Lille is also linked to London St Pancras by Eurostar, with flights every 2hrs, journey time 1hr 30min. Trains come into Lille Europe.
Brussels Airport is 116km (72 miles) away. From there, trains take about 2hrs to Mouscron (€21.50), either changing once at Antwerp-Berchem or twice, at Brussels-Midi and Ghent. Arriving by Eurostar to Brussels-Midi, the onward journey to Mouscron is 1hr 30min – just select the ‘Any Belgian station’ option when buying your ticket from London.
Charleroi Airport is also 116km (72 miles) from Mouscron, with no direct transport. From the concourse left out of the terminal, local bus A (Mon-Sat every 30min, Sun every hr) runs to the main train station of Charleroi-Sud (€6 on board) 20min away.
Hourly trains first head for Froyennes, where you change for Mouscron. Overall journey time is 2hrs with a wait of 30min between trains.
Mouscron/Moeskroen station is just east of the town centre a short walk away. The stadium is also walkable, south along the main road following the rail lines.
Local buses are run by Infotec, tickets €2 from machines, €2.50 on board.
For a cab, contact Taxi Mouscron Centre (+32 474 200 600), based by the station and in town, with transfer services from the three nearest airports.
Visit Mouscron has a database of the limited accommodation in town.
The main lodging, the upper mid-range Hotel & Aparthotel Alizé Mouscron, a former Best Western by the main square, is comfortable and convenient, with its own gym and sauna.
The only other central option is the Elberg, 11 rooms with private facilities and kitchenettes right on the main square. Renovated and reopened in 2018, it was a popular pension before and after the war, and remains in the Boudlet family three generations on. Single rooms start at €75, doubles €75, with a shared terrace.
On rue des Brasseurs, halfway between town and the station, La demeure du papillon shows the decorative tastes of the couple who run this three- and four-star B&B, all stained glass and classic furnishings. A swimming pool operates in summer, surrounded by landscaped gardens. Each of the three rooms can be booked for two nights minimum.
Bars and restaurants cluster around the main square, Grand-Place. Pride of place goes to Georgy’s, where parties take over once the many televised matches end. Alongside, the Passé Simple serves all kinds of local beers, including Béquin from Mouscron, plus tasty dishes, on a pleasant garden terrace. Live games are also screened at lively La Bodega, open evenings only except for Sundays (noon til 4pm) and Mondays (closed). Brasserie La Paix is a lovely, atmospheric local spot where Hurlus gather for beer and sustenance.
Nearby, on pedestrianised passage de la Poste, Le Flore is where to come for select Belgian brews on draught away from the crowd.
Behind the main square on rue de la Station, the Enjoy Bar also knows how to party, with DJs and drinks promotions, but is quick to put up a screen if Belgium are playing an international.
Near the station on place de la Justice, Themis is a bar, fast-food restaurant, bowling alley and handy spot to watch the match. Opposite the station, Le Zenith and L’Endroit are both typical local Belgian bars, with a terrace for sunny imbibing and a TV for sport.