It’s been too long without any writing. This is largely because I have done very little worth writing about – and there are precious few folk out there who want to know about my day job.
With that in mind, I’m posting a picture plus a couple of paragraphs from my trip to Belgium earlier this month. The only thing I knew about Namur before I was given the chance to go and give a presentation there was that the town had a football team called UR Namur. Predictably, I learned that morsel from a computer game, namely Championship Manager 03/04, when I plucked a team called Spa from the depths of obscure Belgian football. During my trip I also learned that Belgium is a rather small place, as in my travels I passed many, many of the places that I’d ‘visited’ on virtual cup ties. They all looked like dumps in real life, especially the ones with pretty sounding names like Chatelet and Charleroi.
Given this was the only thing I knew beforehand about what turned out to be the pleasant but unassuming university town of Namur, I thought I owed it to myself to go and visit UR’s ground after my conference finished. I could maybe even try to buy a scarf or something. So with the route to the stadium – an agreeable 10 minute walk along the residential riverside – punched into the iPod, I made my way out there.
The stadium was pretty small, with one of the advertising boards hanging loose and blowing in the wind, perhaps smacked by a wayward shot (search UR Namur on YouTube, it ain’t pretty). All the gates were shut apart from the main entrance, where a van was parked apparently on maintenance business. I walked along a gravel road by the pitch to where the hospitality suites (a line of portakabins placed end-to-end along the touchline) were, and opened the one entrance door. Two guys were in the next room talking, and the younger standing one beckoned me in. I explained my situation and curiosity in my erratic French, and was politely but firmly told there was ‘rien’ for enthusiasts. So that was that, and I went on my way.
I’d probably have received similarly short shrift if I went to a similar size ground in Scotland, and it seems there are plenty similarities between Scottish and Belgian football in terms of low quality and a lack of impact (I did hear though that some of the rivalries between wee Belgian teams are pretty fierce). UR Namur are languishing at the bottom of the Belgian fourth division, and if my French reading is half accurate they’ve been in a bit of financial bother recently. Bug that could just be my limited vocabulary, who knows.
Needless to say I didn’t get a scarf. But I did manage to pick up a Standard Liege hat in town, and with it the epiphany that I really must be careful about being interested in obscure football teams. After all, if I behaved this way in relation to music, people might start to call me a hipster…