Heysel II, Brussels

posted in: Brussels, Stadiums | 0

Clubs: Racing Jet de Bruxelles (1970-1988), FC Atlas (’90s), RSC Anderlecht/Ladies ‘71

Perhaps inspiration was running low when they were brainstorming a possible name for this cozy Stadium. The Heysel II “or” “Small Heysel” is literally in the shadow of his big brother, the now renamed “King Baudouin stadium”. Football fans of 30 years and older will remember that in this stadium football was played on a national level. What’s more, in the 80s and near the distinct shape of the Atomium, one could enjoy three seasons of First Division football!

When Racing Club de Jette merged with Royal Stade de Bruxelles in 1970, the club moved from the old stadium at the exhibition Avenue in Jette to this small stadium on the Heysel site. Fusion club Racing Jet de Bruxelles started with matricule 4549 in the Third National Division and would reach the second division in 1979. It was a relatively short stay of only 3 seasons but after the relegation at the end of the 81-82 season they immediately became champions again. This time Bruxellois were more successful: RC Jet won the play-offs and for the first time in its relatively young existence access to the First Division of Belgian football. Their baptism of fire on the highest level was not to be laughed at. The Yellow Blues first game would be against the neighbours of Anderlecht and especially for this game they moved to the much larger Heysel stadium. RC Jet was humiliated with 2-9 by a supreme Anderlecht and would continue to be at the lower end of the standing for the entire season. The second attempt at the highest level 2 seasons later was slightly more successful. At the end of the season 1986-87 the Heizelboys reached their highest result ever in club history with a 12th place. The cliché that the second season after promotion is always the hardest unfortunately also rang true for Racing Jet. The small club who never had played for more than a handful of loyal supporters were again relegated to The Second Division. The club found salvation in a merger and moved to Wavre where during the past 2 decades they have lived an anonymous existence as RJ Wavre.

In the 1990s the multicultural FC Atlas took his residence in the empty Stadium. The yellow-green club with Moroccan roots had a relatively large fan base but found it hard to keep its head above water and disappeared at the end of last century. Since then, the ladies and some youth teams of RSC Anderlecht and the national rugby team, the Black Devils, have taken residence in the stadium. Although the small Heysel is not exactly a ruin it could do with a few licks of paint and some renovations.

With its large stand behind both goals, the stadium still breathes the atmosphere of the 70s and 80s. The outside was mainly constructed with natural stone and shrubs and hedges were planted. Remarkable are the two relatively narrow stands on the long side of the field. The all seated covered stand at the side of the King Baudouin stadium is 6 rows high while the terrace facing the street with only 3 steps feels very claustrophobic. In the middle of this small terrace was a television platform that evokes memories of the glory years of RC Jet. The showpieces of the Stadium are the relatively large standing sections behind both goals. Due to the height difference the North stand with its 30 steps is barely a few meters above street level. The covered terrace on the other side is about 22 steps high, starting on street level. It’s the kind of terrace which is just right to experience football moments.

According to the Panini-books from the 80 ‘s the Heysel II could hold up to 12,000 spectators. I estimate the real capacity on 8,000 which is still a multiple of the average number of spectators during the heyday of Racing Jet. Although in recent years there were sometimes more people on the pitch than next to it, we can only argue for the preservation of the Small Heysel.