It is sometimes easy to forget how beautiful Brussels can be. It is a thought that comes to mind when I drive by the Bois de la Cambre. People who only see Brussels as a gray, ugly city should spend some time here. It is a stunning natural environment which makes you forget that there is a large city just around the corner.
I’m in Brussels to visit two stadiums, one has largely disappeared and the other has an almost mythical resonance at Stadium fans. I’m talking about the two stadiums of the past glory Racing Club Brussels: the Goose Pond (Ganzenvijver/Vivier d’oie) and the Three Linden Stadium (Drie Linden Stadion/Stade des Trois Tilleuls).
My first stop is the Goose Pond. Racing moved to this location in 1902 after they first played their home games in Koekelberg and then on the velodrome of Longchamps.
The first stadium of Racing Club Brussels lay here in what now has become an expensive residential area in Uccle.
Of the stadium itself only the, at that time, exceptional concrete stand is left. This stand, for about 1500 spectators, is the oldest existing stand in Belgium.
The football pitch has been replaced by a hockey field, the training pitches by tennis courts and yet you can still smell the atmosphere of the great days, from the access gate on the Avenue de Racing to the beautiful details in the restored tribune. Here men with mustaches used to play against notorious but forgotten clubs such as Daring Brussels and Léopold Club.
Here they experienced their highest triumphs and here began, unfortunately, also their demise.
The Goose Pond was also the scene of the first official international match on the continent and a packed stadium saw Belgium and France battle to a 3-3 draw.
When I return to my car, walking along the tennis courts where the Brussels bourgeoisie in immaculate white costumes play, I find a memorial for Joseph Devos. I have no idea what the good man has done for the club but it once again brings back images of a great past.
Stade des Trois Tilleuls
From Uccle I drive in the direction of Watermael-Boitsfort where the Three Linden Stadium is located.
Brussels has known several beautiful stadiums but to me this stadium has a mythical allure.
The Crossing stadium is brilliant but totally neglected and the stadium of Union has a beautiful protected facade but the Three Linden Stadium remains something different altogether.
This construction with delusions of grandeur was not only never completely finished, it also heralded the end of Racing Club Brussels.
The Three Linden stadium is named for the Three Linden trees that stood nearby on a roundabout. Today there are only two linden trees left but it remains a beautiful name.
When the stadium was built the neighborhood was a still wide open space but nowadays it lies in a beautiful residential area. When walking through it you would not suspect that a stadium with a capacity of more than 40.000 would be just around the corner.
That all changes when you go through one of the small gates and climb the stairs to the stadium.
Suddenly the main stand looms up and you find yourself at the top of a gigantic concrete shell.
It’s hard to understand that a relatively small team thought they would ever fill up this stadium.
Only once the stadium was sold out: during the inaugural game against AC Torino.
But the public did not flock to the new stadium and when also the league results disappointed Racing was forced in 1954, after barely 6 years, to leave the stadium and sell it to the municipality. In an ironic twist this forced them to play at the one stadium in Belgium that was larger than theirs: the Heysel Stadium.
The stadium is now being used by the Racing track and field club and Racing Boisfort who play in the Provincial Divisions.
Ons land op voetbalschoenen. Joris Jacobs, Ben Vandoorne en Leo Verhoeven
Histoire Du Football en Belgique et au Congo Belge. Victor Boin