Adventures in Football #88: Stade Yves Lemaire (FC Arlon)
August 12, 2023
FC ARLON vs. RCS LIBRAMONT (Coupe de la Province de Luxembourg Group Stage)
Strap yourselves in boys and girls, this one is a little nuts. Trying to find information about this club was a little bit tricky as Arlon is a regional Belgian team. Founded in 1972 under the name “FC Lorrain Arlon” (a name that still appears on stuff) it merged with neighbouring Royale Jeunesse Arlonaise in 2018, changing the club’s name to the more simplified “FC Arlon”. I’ve been trying to find out who Yves Lemaire was, to limited success.
How did this happen? So, long story short, I have a friend called The Big Dohmi. He created an FM mod, which I played, as F91 Dudelange and after we had a fun time, we decided to one day go and see them play in Luxembourg. I mean, why not right? If you’re going ground hopping, you might as well go all in. So, I fly out to Dusseldorf and we drive to Luxembourg. Once there, we figure we’ll sort out a few Luxembourgian fixtures. One small problem; the entire weekend’s fixtures are all on Sunday. We have a Saturday free. After I spent some time walking around Luxembourg City, exploring their fortifications, we decided to hop over the border and watch a game in Belgium. What’s the worst that could happen?
Oh, fuck me, that doesn’t look great. Stade FC Lorrain. Eh, close enough. I tell Dohmi we have arrived and he’s all “that’s not the name of the team or the ground”. Welcome to Belgium. Dohmi is annoyed to discover they all speak French (The Big Dohmi is a noted “pro anti-France” guy). There’s this whole ‘everyone speaks English in the low countries’ meme, but they really only speak French in Arlon.
So, this fella here is the ticket office. It’s boarded up, so I assume it’s a freebie. As we turn up there are maybe 40 people in the ground. You may also notice the old team name is still adorned on the ticket booth. A lady walks in with a dog, so we assume we just stroll in and are immediately accosted by a French speaking fella. He doesn’t speak any English. It turns out, the ‘turnstile’ is a box on a shelf behind the ticket booth. The ticket price is seven Euros, but he doesn’t know what seven is in English, so we end up going in for five Euro each.
No sooner have we ‘entered’ the ground, we’re nearly struck by an errant warm up shot. How, with this massive fence in the way does that happen? Well, there are several large holes in it. To say the ground is a little run down and could use some work…would be an understatement.
Gardening? Pah. We don’t do that around these parts. Some of the terrain is borderline treacherous. Boggy ground, uneven paving, huge weeds everywhere.
The only thing that isn’t shitty looking is the Bofferding (national beer of Luxembourg) sign. Bofferding is like Carling, only worse. I assume they had it on tap in the bar.
This cement terrace runs down the one side of the ground. We briefly consider standing there but literally everyone else is over the other side. Apart from a bit of a rust on the girders, it does the job. The only people who watch the game from over this side are a bunch of kids. More on them later.
As we walk around the pitch, it gets progressively more and more overrun by flora. This is technically the rail where you would lean on, as a spectator, should you choose to post up in this corner. A little further along, the rail is missing completely, and you can just walk onto the pitch. I did so to prove my point. No one seemed to care.
Here is the pitch in all of its glory. We’ll be sitting in the grandstand, mainly because my Sketchers are not waterproof enough to stand anywhere else.
Seriously, behind this goal nature has simply taken over. It’s hard work wading through the plants. I lost count of the amount of footballs that shot off into the undergrowth never to be seen again.
The grey cement monstrosity is sponsored by Royal Wok, which is over the other side. We wondered if they would deliver some noodles at half time. We finally negotiate our way around the ground and get to the far side and the corner bit is just completely missing and replaced by tape.
I burst out laughing, uncontrollably, and the players are just coming out for the game. The one guy looked disappointed. They’re very protective of their tape in Arlon.
Anyway, we find a spot to sit and a lot of continental grounds have these seats that have seats bolted down, rather than the folding up variety. Mine wasn’t bolted down on the one side so I couldn’t lean backwards or I’d just fall over.
Alright, alright, alright, here are the two teams. FC Arlon and…the other one. I kept forgetting the name of the team so all my notes just say “visitors”. We have no scoreboards or anything around these parts. Arlon play in a greyish white colour, Libramont are in purple. As you can see the four children have taken over the far side stand, like a modern day Lord of the Flies. I’ve put “attendance: at least 20”. People kept filtering in though, and I’m pretty sure we got to at least triple figures.
The teams introduced to the crowd, the kids set off pyro! What follows is a minute’s silence and the sombre atmosphere is offset in sensational fashion by blue smoke pouring onto the pitch. One kid has an air horn. Another kid has a whistle, which thankfully is only blown at half time and pre-match.
The game is underway, and firecrackers are set off! What have we walked into here? Arlon’s #8 is scythed down about thirty seconds after kick-off and it begins a series of fouls, from both teams, largely ignored by the referee. The ref is a lady who reminds me a little of Angela Merkel. She’s petty when it comes to the precise location of free kicks and throw-ins but lets almost everything go. I suspect she forgot to bring her cards out first half. She also has no assistants. I’m watching a game with no one running the lines with everyone kicking the shit out of each other, as football was meant to be played!
The dog has settled in to watch the game. He takes particular interest in players screaming when they’re fouled. They should have strapped a little medikit to him and let him run on as a physio. 13’ in Libramont take the lead, hitting Arlon over the top. The forward nets and promptly kneeslides into the corner that’s overgrown. There are literally no fans there! 0-1.
Another firecracker is set off. More kicking of each other ensues. Still no sign of a yellow card. #67 absolutely chops someone from behind. It’s a blatant red. He went straight through him. The referee gives him a talking to. Haha. Arlon go through on goal and their creative #10 is pushed over. It looked outside the box, but we have no VAR (or linos or anything really). #9 tucks it away (sorry I have no names) for 1-1 on 33’. We get a celebratory flare! The kids have moved further down, which allows one of them the chance to retrieve an errant shot, which has once again found the hole in the fence. He tries to punt it over! This does not work, and the keeper has to explain to him how the hole works. Half time: 1-1.
The second half kicks off after some kids have gone on the pitch at the turn for a kick about. 51’ the visiting keeper whiffs horribly on a cross. #90 turns it into the empty net. 2-1 Arlon. The kids celebrate with a smoke grenade. How much pyro do they have over there? 58’ Arlon continue to press and a shot rebounds. The defender opts to not clear it, waiting for the keeper to get up and pick it up. One small problem, #90 is right behind him, 3-1 Arlon.
More pyro! Arlon aren’t done and press on. #45 is fouled, it’s another penalty and he converts it himself. 4-1 Arlon. The kids have now run out of pyro and opt to bang on the advertising panels. Hopefully not the nice new Bofferding one! In frustration the Libramont #12 commits a horrendous late tackle. Another nailed on red card. The referee administers…a talking to. The match degenerates into carnage. It feels like it’ll break out into a fight at any moment. It’s at this point that a UFO floats over the field. It’s a weird little thing that just floats across. It may have been a drone, or possibly evidence of alien life. This game has it all folks.
Including this good boy, who’s doing well with the firecrackers. Who’s a good boy? 70’ played and Libramont break through the Arlon defence, #16 scores. 4-2. Maybe putting just a bit of pressure on the home team for the remaining 20 minutes but in all honesty, Libramont haven’t been in the game at all in the second half. It feels like a consolation. The players continue to hoof each other into the air and the referee finally books someone for a vicious late foul on the home centre back. Another horrible late challenge arrives from a visiting player and another booking. Where were these cards earlier?
It’s at this point I manage to get enough internet to check in on Futbology and we’re on eight countries now. I was on something like three at the start of the year. 81’ played and Arlon give the ball away on the edge of their own box. The bearded centre back is left two on one and #90 scores. 4-3. Surely not. 85’: corner to Libramont. It’s headed down and turned in on the line. 4-4. Arlon have absolutely fucked it. 87’ and the ball ricochets loose in the Arlon box. It’s turned in. 4-5. Libramont win it at the death! The subs are on the pitch. It’s a proper upset.
What happens next is a bit confusing. We have a penalty shoot-out. Have I counted the number of goals wrong? Seeing as this is a group stage for a cup, what I think is happening is a bonus point for winning a shoot-out. Arlon, clearly rattled from their 90-minute collapse, proceeded to deliver one of the worst penalty shoot-out performance in football history. At least one of them goes in but that’s it. Libramont win the shoot-out too by 4-1 and their own keeper rifles one in to add insult to injury. There’s still banter though as the announcer gets the score wrong at “2-2”. “Pardon, 1-3″ and the crowd rinse him for it. Getting pelters in French on a Saturday night. It’s all gone Pete Tong.
The visiting coach seems unconcerned by all this and during the shoot-out he’s petting the dog! Some of the dogs are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. Well, it is now! The kids invade the pitch and I’m a little sad they didn’t save a flare for the occasion.
FINAL SCORE: ARLON 4 LIBRAMONT 5
Was this the greatest game of all time? Dohmi gives it the thumbs up. How do I rate this experience? I will give it a shot.
The crowd was largely enjoying themselves but mostly through yelling. The Ultras (IE some children) helped a bit by setting off explosives during the game. ***
After bartering the Belgie down to five Euros we were quids in here. ****½
A sensational game of football was aided by an incredibly lenient referee, defensive blunders, and a nine-goal comeback thriller. ****½
EASE OF ACCESS:
A mere twenty-minute stroll from Arlon’s train station, it took us about 30 minutes to drive to from central Luxembourg. This part of the world benefits from everything being so close together. I could have walked here from Luxembourg City in six hours. ***
A real juxtaposition of a run down, dump of a ground, combined with the bizarre occurrences on and off the field. It’s an experience I will never likely forget. ***½
A bizarre experience from start to finish. A game where a referee ignored two blatant red cards but started handing out yellows for dissent near the end. A game where they tacked on a penalty shoot-out for a laugh. Nine goals. An unlikely comeback. Oh, and we may have had beings from another world at the game and it didn’t make the top three weirdest things that happened. Kids in Belgium love flares. That’s my biggest take from this.