Adventures in Football #90: Stade Jos Haupert (Progres Niederkorn)
August 13, 2023
PROGRES NIEDERKORN vs. FC MARISCA MERSCH (Luxembourg National Division)
Niederkorn were formed in 1919 and are currently coached by Borussia Monchengladbach legend Jeff Strasser. They’ve won three Luxembourg titles; 1953, 1978 and 1981. Modern fans know them because they beat Rangers in the Europa League qualifiers back in 2017-2018. Marisca are not such a well established team and only came up last season, as champions of the second division. PN finished P5 in the country last year. They should be favourites today.
We* had a race to get to this game as we went to Fola Esch vs. Dudelange in the afternoon. The game finished quite late. At 6pm we were just leaving Esch-sur-Alzette. Niederkorn is a completely different place. I hesitate to call it a town. Once we’re clear of the football traffic and an awkward red light, which gave me Leeds flashbacks, we’re away and we arrive at the ground with about 2 minutes to spare.
*Myself and the Big Dohmi.
The language has changed from Esch to here, despite it being a 20-minute drive. Instead of French, the default language is now German. Although I got spoken to a few times and it’s in French. So, who the fuck knows? The Big Dohmi pays us in and we’re met by a merch stand. I was so, so tempted to get some Progres (this is is pronounced “pro-grey” because it’s a French word, but it still means Progress so knock yourself out) merch. The shirts and scarves are both banging. Why didn’t I? Because my house is rapidly filling up with shit that I have no space for.
They do have cool branding everywhere. I dig the yellow and black colour scheme and the hornet logo. I love how they’ve stuck it all over the place and the antenna always stick out above the wall. To give an idea of how close we’ve cut this, we head up into the stand, sit down and the match kicks off.
First impressions of the ground are that it’s better than Fola Esch, even if it looks less impressive. Sitting in the main stand you’re right on top of the action though. The pitch is very close to the stand, and it feels more intimate. While Fola Esch was very visually impressive, this is a proper ground. The fencing behind the goals, designed to prevent balls from disappearing into the nearby woods, has been turned into an advertising wall. Which is a little unfortunate. Instead the bulk of the crowd are packed into the main stand, split between home fans, families with little kids and then away fans at the other end.
On the way over, I implied that nothing ever happens in the first five minutes of a game. Marisca score after 3’. Dadashev. Niederkorn caught cold at the start. 0-1. Both teams have bands and lots of drums. It’s interesting to see how they almost take it in turns to duel with each other and then sometimes, like when a goal goes in, the losing team drops out for a bit. Marisca’s band in full force for 10 seconds until Progres’ come storming back. Both groups are loud throughout the match and the contrast between the atmosphere here and at Fola Esch is incredible. It’s hard to believe it’s the same league. Hearing the noise on arriving at the stadium was bizarre.
We have a bird’s eye view of Jeff Strasser, placed in this bizarre little coach’s prison. While he can’t approach the referee he can bang on the advertising to draw his attention. Which he does. Often! Strasser is quickly level though thanks to a sensational long range effort from Alex Guett (Guett Guett* according to his jersey), who fires a left footed curling shot into top bins. Guett is on loan from Sochaux and was comfortably one of the most exciting players on display. 1-1 and the percussion battles rages on.
*Have I done this so it looks like “Guett Guett Guett”? Yes, yes I have.
Progres grow into the game and dominate the last 10 minutes of the first half. An attempted overhead kick doesn’t come off but soon after Antoine Mazure-Hannes, a Frenchmen who’s playing left side of the attack, slots home for 2-1. Tempers flare after this with a couple of late tackles and a scuffle ensues. The guy who caused with the initial late challenge isn’t even spoken to by the referee. Shit stirring bastard.
This is the back of the stand behind us. You can see a few drummers up there and the various flags and bunting. They’ve turned the stand yellow and black. You love to see it.
Half time and it’s time to look around, seeing as I didn’t get the chance before the game. There’s a concourse area that runs under the main stand. The main stand is so high that it doesn’t matter if anyone walks under it. Past the flag in the corner is a food and drinks area. Also the merch shop is there. You could even buy replica shirts. They looked cool.
I walked around the corner and turned back to take this shot. The stand is event more colourful when you look at it from a distance. Way over in the background is some sort of party bus. I don’t know what that was all about. The away fans are in that corner. I couldn’t walk down there because the extended players tunnel prevents it. You can see it’s a really tidy ground though.
This is the terrace that runs down the far side. A double stack of concrete with woods directly behind it. Luxembourg has a lot of woods. I enjoyed it. On the left you can see the other goal mouth with similar advertising boarding to the other end. If the sun wasn’t directly in your eyes over here, I’d happily stand and watch from this side.
You can see the percussion section resting in between halves here. No one goes to get a beer or anything. Just rest up for more drumming.
The Marisca lads have gone for pints. They’re definitely enjoying their first season in the top division. To bring all the drums and banners and shit shows that they’re up for it. They’re clearly a smaller club (the ground holds a mere 500) but want to turn up and defy the bigger clubs.
I’m relieved of a 15-minute interval in the drumming. It’s borderline headache inducing. The Big Dohmi is enjoying himself. The Big Dohmi is a drums guy. As long as they’re not French drums. Niederkorn start strong in the second half, looking to kill the game off. Orders from Jeff Strasser. They overplay around the box and get unlucky. The game should be dead and buried by the time Frenchman Walid Jarmouni tucks away a cross from close range. 3-1. Game over. 78’ played.
However, every game this weekend has gone buck wild in the last ten minutes and this would be no exception. Niederkorn’s keeper misses a through ball and Meyong curls the ball into an empty net from the angle. 3-2. Game on!
There’s still time for Correira, with the blonde hair here, to try and get himself sent off. He gets a yellow for a reckless tackle. Progres break the offside trap and Marisca hearts, Jermouni unselfishness squares it and it’s a tap in for Mayron de Almeida. From what I can tell, he’s quite prolific. In this league anyway, he went to Red Star FC and got blanked a few seasons ago. 4-2. 89’ played. Game over. Officially this time. There’s still time left for more late drama as Marisca sneak another consolation, through Gomes, just to take our goal tally over three games to a staggering 21 goals. 4-3.
FINAL SCORE: PROGRES NIEDERKORN 4 MARSICA 3
And that’s it. The two day, three game, 21 goal Luxembourg/Belgium tour comes to an end. What a time we had. I’d strongly recommend going to Luxembourg. It’s a lovely little country and the football is a wild ride. It’s never over until the final whistle. The final whistle has gone on this journey though. The Big Dohmi drives us back up to Dusseldorf and around 12 hours ago I got a flight from Dusseldorf back to the UK. During Covid, I developed a wanderlust that I’d never experienced before. This year’s trips to places have been beyond my wildest dreams. The places I’ve been in 2023 have been truly extraordinary and I am blessed. It’s only August. I am livin’.
Surprisingly good. There weren’t a lot of fans at the game, but they were loud and proud. I’ve seen similar drum gimmicks in my time and some of them almost lose sight of the game and just turn into a concert. These felt like they reacted to the beats and happenings of the match. Like, they were a part of the whole, not a show unto themselves. These people aren’t musicians, they’re fans. ****½
As with Fola, it was ten Euros to get in. Well worth it. ****
I’ve debated whether this or Fola-Dundelange was the better game. It was close enough that I can’t choose so we’ll give them the same score. Alex Guett’s goal was probably as good as Yanis Lahrach’s for Fola. ***½
EASE OF ACCESS:
The fact we got into here so easily, is huge. Ample parking around the ground, attentive staff at the gates, and a quick and easy entry got us in before kick-off. If you were travelling by train, you have a slightly longer walk than at Fola with 1.8km distance. With that in mind, I’ve gone slightly lower. ***½
The whole process of rushing into a second game in one day could have been stressful but it wasn’t. It just a laugh. The downside is I wish we’d had time to explore and eat and stuff. ***½
Great atmosphere, cheap tickets, great little ground, good facilities, good game. There’s almost nothing I can criticise here. It’s the best ground of the year (so far), just ahead of Harrogate. This definitely edges Harrogate for atmosphere, and it was a better game of football with far more goals. This is a huge winner for me. One of the best grounds I’ve ever been to. Even without the duelling drums, I just loved the way the ground was put together.