The story of football in Sint-Truiden is one of longevity rather than success. Overshadowed in recent years by fellow Limburgers and four-time title winners Genk, Sint-Truidense VV slowly approach their centenary year having notched up 40-plus seasons in the top flight out of 80-plus in the Belgian League.
Excluding the lifting of the short-lived Belgian League Cup in 1998, the club’s major claim to fame since its foundation has been a runners-up spot in the First Division in 1966. This achievement has added significance, though, as it was the culmination of seven years under coach Raymond Goethals, who would move straight into the national set-up, then win European trophies for Anderlecht and Marseille.
Little is known of the two teams who merged to create Sint-Truidense in 1924, FC Union and FC Goldstar. Adopting the yellow and blue of the city it represented, the club moved into current ground Stayen, west of town in 1927. Thought to come from the local word for this district of Staden, the name stuck – there’s even a contemporary Hotel Stayen built into the ground. Another nickname, Bink, refers to someone from Sint-Truiden and, consequently, their fans.
The nearest rivals, Cercle Tongeren, dating back to 1908, were Sint-Truiden’s first opponents, their ground on Stadionpleinstraat now one of football’s great lost ruins. Abandoned in 1969, it had witnessed a Gestapo round-up during the Limburg derby of 1944.
In peacetime, Sint-Truiden and Tongeren would often be divisional rivals in the second or third tier until the Canaries flew up to the highest level shortly before the Goethals era, in 1957.
Sint-Truiden are also associated with another notable figure in the Belgian game, one perhaps less revered than the chain-smoking, multi-travelled manager: Roland Duchâtelet. For the millionaire politician, whose mother was a Limburger, Sint-Truiden represented his first step into the murky waters of club ownership – from here, he moved on to Standard Liège, then Charlton…
In 2017, Duchâtelet sold Sint-Truiden to Tokyo-based digital commerce company DMM.com – a number of Japanese internationals now feature in the first-team squad as the club enter a fifth straight season in First Division A.
Liège Airport 32km (20 miles) from Sint-Truiden is used mainly for cargo and holiday traffic to the Med.
From the Eurostar terminal at Brussels Midi, an hourly direct train takes 1hr to Sint-Truiden. A single is €11.50 but you can book St Pancras-Any Belgian Station and get the onward train journey thrown in.
Charleroi Airport is 84km (52 miles) away. An hourly service from the nearest station of Charleroi-Sud runs to Brussels Midi, where you change for Sint-Truiden, overall journey time 2hrs 20mins, single ticket €15.50.
Sint-Truiden station is west of the town centre a short walk away. Stayen stadium is also west of town, about 15mins away.
Flanders-wide De Lijn runs local buses. A single ticket from the machine by the stop or the driver is €3, valid for 1hr. A day pass is €7, €9 on board, 3-day pass €14. Validate your ticket for each journey in the yellow machine.
For St-Truidense Taxi Centrale, call +32 478 32 68 68. They also offer airport transfers.
Built into the stadium of the same name, the Hotel Stayen is not only the most convenient lodging, it’s also the best in town. Its Grand Café and some of the 77 comfortable rooms overlook the pitch – Skybox ones are not available on match days – while the Café du Soleil screen matches and offers pool, darts and table football. A pool, gym, sauna and jacuzzi are also provided. Strangely, football packages are rare – the hotel tries more to appeal to outdoor types keen to explore Limburg by bike. Sint-Truidense souvenirs, however, embellish the lobby area.
Near the station, the bright, friendly Hotel Belle-Vie goes the extra mile for guests, offering late check-outs and breakfast in bed. You’ll also find a sun terrace, garden and mini-bar on every floor. Free hot drinks in the rooms, too.
On central Beekstraat, De Beek Anno 1410 contains a mix of contemporary rooms, studios and apartments in a house dating back more than six centuries.
Note that the nearby Cicindria, connected with the club, closed in 2019, its future uncertain.
Bars and cafés line the main square, Grote Markt but 18 months of construction work saw several closures in 2019. While Pacific at No.4 is more of a brasserie, the popular Nieuwscafé just behind has been taken over by two former waitstaff and reopened as Bistro Sacré Coeur in August 2019. Also here, on Heilig-Hartplein, bar/club Cohibar provides late-night revelry.
Back on the square, De Klok operates as a restaurant but has a TV for match-watching over drinks. Alongside, Brasserie Royal (No.14) offers an encyclopaedic selection of Belgian beers by the bottle.
In the corner, Old Tom was the most lived-in bar on the square before its closure in late 2018 – a new hostelry should fill its space.
On the other side of the square, De Kleine Bacchus at No.34 screens matches, as does its more food-focused partner café, De Bacchus, by the church. In between, Sportwereld ST has football as its focus, although it’s more café than pub. Alongside, Brasserie De Bink is probably the sleekest eatery on the square, with a great choice of beers.
Most bar crawls end at ’t Café on Kazernestraat, open until 4am six nights a week.
If you’ve just arrived in town, daytime ’t Buffet can provide a welcome beer.