Thursday, February 16, 2017

KAA Gent

KAA Gent 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 - UEFA Europa League, Round of 32 1st Leg

Ghent is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province and after Antwerp the largest municipality of Belgium. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. The ten-day-long Ghent Festival every year is attended by about 1–1.5 million visitors. Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its centre is the largest carfree area in Belgium. Highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfry, the Gravensteen Castle, and the splendid architecture along the old Graslei Harbour. Ghent has established a blend between comfort of living and history; it is not a city-museum. The city of Ghent also houses three béguinages and numerous churches including Saint-Jacob's, Saint-Nicolas' and Saint Michael's. In the 19th century Ghent's most famous architect, Louis Roelandt, built the university hall Aula, the opera house and the main courthouse. Highlights of modern architecture are the university buildings by Henry Van de Velde.

Koninklijke Atletiek Associatie Gent, is a Belgian football, track and field and hockey club, based in the city of Ghent, East Flanders. The club has been playing in the Belgian Pro League since the 1989–90 season. They won the national league once, in 2014–15, in addition to three Belgian Cup victories. Gent played their home matches in the Jules Ottenstadion in Gentbrugge from 1920 until 2013, when they moved to the Ghelamco Arena. The team colours are blue and white. The field hockey and track and field divisions were founded in 1864, making it one of the oldest sports clubs in Belgium. The club was then known under its French name La Gantoise (and it is still referred to as such in the French-speaking part of Belgium). They changed their name to the current Dutch version in 1971. The football division opened in 1900. The nickname of the club is De Buffalo's, a term coined after a visit of the original Buffalo Bill and his Wild West circus to the city in the early 20th century. Ghent enjoyed a first spell at the highest level in Belgian football between 1913–14 and 1928–29, and a second one from 1936–37 to 1966–67. In the 1970s and 1980s, the club had several promotions and relegations between the first and second divisions, to come back at the highest level in 1989. The club reached the 1991–92 UEFA Cup quarterfinals, which is their best achievement ever in European competitions. 

The Ghelamco Arena (also called Arteveldestadion) was officially opened on July 17, 2013, making it the first new-built Belgian football stadium since 1974. The stadium seats 20,000 and replaced the Jules Ottenstadion, which had been Gent's home since 1920. The stadium hosted its first competitive match on 4 August 2013, when Gent won 2-1 against KV Mechelen. The stadium is situated on the site of the Groothandelsmarkt (Trade Market), near the R4 and the Ringvaart and close to the E17 and E40 motorways. 

A morning Eurostar departure from London St Pancras to Brussels saw this Pieman arrive in Gent early afternoon on the day of the match. A brief stroll around town en-route to my hotel was pleasant and I was able to appreciate the appeal of the place. I was also able to enjoy a few different Belgian beers in a couple of bars. The number 8 bus runs from the centre of town directly to the stadium with the fare being €3. Even a couple of hours before the match, the traffic near the ground was extremely slow and we walked the last bit. UEFA schedule Europa League matches during the commuter rush hour, which is a really clever arrangement!

The stadium is, as you would expect for a new build, decent with a good view afforded from all areas. The away section is tucked away in a corner. The refreshment facilities (like many on the continent) do not accept cash. Vouchers have to be purchased for €2 before you can use them for purchases. However, this itself seems rather daft as the cheapest fare available cost €4. The match itself was a poor spectacle with the home side edging a dull encounter 1-0 against a lifeless Tottenham Hotspur side.
After the match, we managed to squeeze on a solitary number 8 bus which enabled us to get back to town relatively easily, once it had left the immediate vicinity of the ground. I noticed that a lot of the Gent supporters either cycled or walked, which on reflection does seem the better option.

A frustrating evening for the Tottenham Hotspur supporters leaving little margin for error in the second leg at Wembley Stadium.

Attendance: 19,267
Admission: €40
Programme: Only available in VIP and Press Areas (Free)

Click here for a full set of photographs

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