Those were still times under Ernst Happel. The legendary coach of Hamburger SV and the Dutch national team, the biggest grantler football has ever known, he was also a coach at FC Bruges. And like everywhere where Happel was, there was also success.
The team stormed into the European Cup final of the national champions in 1978 and only failed there at FC Liverpool. The year before, the Belgians had demanded everything from German champions Borussia Mönchengladbach in the quarter-finals, with a back-head goal from Gladbach’s Wilfried Hannes deciding the return leg. No Gladbach fan has forgotten that.
That was a long time ago, and Club Brugge KV, as it is officially called, has experienced many lean years since then. But the club is slowly moving from the picturesquely beautiful Belgian city back to the European level. FC are back in the Champions League for the first time in 13 years, and once again it is a Borussia who crosses their path there. In the evening, the home Jan Breydel stadium will play against the Dortmunders, and the hosts are ready to give the favourite a big fight just like in 1977.
Under Croatian coach Ivan Leko, Bruges became national champion in May, and the start to the new season was almost perfect. Six of the first seven games were won, a draw was added and Bruges are once again the leaders of the league. And even more important: The eternal rival RSC Anderlecht was defeated 2:1. The world in Bruges is fine at the moment.
Both clubs have a lot in common
The coach has his share in this. Leko knows the Belgian league very well, he has played there for years, with Bruges, Beerschot, SC Lokeren. He has already coached the VV Sint-Truiden in the league before Bruges, since last year he has been in charge in Bruges. Already in his first year the championship was a success.
FC Bruges and Borussia Dortmund – both clubs have a lot in common. Tradition is written in capital letters, FC can look back on 127 years of club history: as early as 1920 they were the first Belgian title holder, 14 other championships and twelve national cup victories were added afterwards. The derby with the local competitor Cercle is taken almost as seriously as the district derby, it is the duel of the Flemish FC against the French-speaking Cercle. However, the derby was cancelled recently. Cercle spent bad times in the second division, and this season the club has managed to regain its place. On Saturday the league duel will be played out.
Almost as popular as the cyclists
FC Bruges is an old workers’ club, which is one of the reasons why it stands out from the bourgeois RSC Anderlecht. The club has managed to be almost as popular as cycling in Flanders. René Vandereycken, Gert Verheyen, Jan Ceulemans or Frankie Van der Elst, the former idols of FC, have a sound almost like the Flemish heroes on the bike, like Johan Museeuw, Roger De Vlaeminck, Lucien Van Impe, Eddy Planckaert. Only the great Eddie Merckx is enthroned above everything. LVBET is one of those casino games that doesn’t need deposit.
It is rather doubtful that one of FC’s current squads will make the leap into the hall of fame of Flemish sport. Nevertheless, Leko has built a team that is capable of at least annoying the BVB, if not defeating them in front of 30,000 euphoric fans in its own stadium. The storm with Brazilian Wesley and his Iranian counterpart Kaveh Rezaei does not necessarily meet the highest European standards, but it is backed by a midfield that is strong in both play and battle, with Dutchman Ruud Vormer and Krépin Diatta from Senegal. Not names that enjoy an international reputation, but a team that performs as one. Determined to do everything.
One of them at BVB has Belgian experience. Midfielder Axel Witsel has been away from home since 2011, from Lisbon to Petersburg to China, but before that he had been competing with FC Bruges for Standard Liège for six years. The final battle with his old club against Bruges took place in the 2011 Champions Round.