Photo of the week: ‘Together we win’


It was a bittersweet victory for Royal Antwerp FC, as they celebrated their Belgian Cup win without the usual fanfare

Dedicated to supporters

Royal Antwerp owner Paul Gheysens, captain Faris Haroun and Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever took to an empty stadium this week to celebrate winning football’s knockout title. Twenty-eight years after they last lifted the trophy, Royal Antwerp FC were presented with the Belgian Cup in strange circumstances due to coronavirus restrictions.

The club won the cup on 1 August in a rescheduled final, beating league champions Club Brugge 1-0 at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels. This week, rather than the planned parade on Antwerp’s Grote Markt in front of thousands of cheering supporters, a small, quiet ceremony was held at the club’s Bosuil stadium.

“I dedicate this to our fans, the best and most loyal in Belgium,” said Gheysens at the trophy presentation. “Hope has never been more important to people, and football is becoming even more important as a connection in these times. I want to dedicate the cup to all Antwerpenaars as a sign of hope. Together we win.”

The Belgian Cup, the country’s main knockout competition, kicked off almost exactly a year earlier. In the first round, 224 teams took part from all levels of football down to amateur provincial leagues.

This club has grown every year. It is such a shame that our supporters have to miss this historic moment

- Manager Ivan Leko

The final had been due to take place on 22 March, but was postponed due to the lockdown. Having beaten Lokeren, Genk, Standard Liège and Kortrijk on their way to the final, Antwerp beat Club Brugge with a single goal from Israeli midfielder Lior Refaelov after 25 minutes.

Safety measures meant the match – the first to be played in Belgium since the coronavirus crisis began – was played behind closed doors with no fans allowed. People watching on TV could listen to artificial crowd noise added by the broadcaster to simulate the usual matchday atmosphere.

Antwerp manager Ivan Leko only joined the club in May, after the regular season had been called to an early halt in March. His first match in charge saw his team win the Belgian Cup for only the third time in their history. Leko previously managed Club Brugge from 2017 to 2019.

“The boys executed the plan perfectly. I am very satisfied,” he said, also praising previous manager Laszlö Bölöni. “I said I wanted to win, but we played against the best team in Belgium. I am so proud of my team. This club has grown every year. It is such a shame that our supporters have to miss this historic moment.”

Photo ©Tijs Vanderstappen