Last weekend’s second division match in Belgium between Antwerp and Virton ended with both sides facing off in a 22-man push-and-shove contest after the visitors refused to sit on their hands as a section of the home crowd continually chanted anti-Walloon songs.
There is precedent to this story. Twelve months ago, the Jupiler League match between Tubize and Genk ended in similar controversial circumstances when Tubize’s manager Derwa Louis confronted the match referee over the Genk supporters’ offensive song. Despite causing a kerfuffle at the time, following the match the incident was brought before the Belgium FA for adjudication however it was decided that the fans’ anti-Walloon taunts were merely “fun,” thereby denying any recourse against Genk.
Fast-forward to last weekend and the whole incident reared its ugly head once more. Deciding to put their own twist on the chants, a sizable section of the Antwerp support began singing “Walloons are pedophiles” in addition to the usual negative songs which have become commonplace in Flemish football.
Realising that the officials were unprepared to do anything about the chants, Virton coach Sebastien Grandjean ordered his players to confront the boo-boys at full-time, which sparked the confrontation between the two sides. Grandjean later explained his actions.
Grandjean: “The referee and his assistants shied away while racist singing from Antwerp was clearly audible. It is difficult to accept. So, to protect my players and as a sign of peaceful protest, I asked at the end of the game for a few minutes to sit in front of the main Antwerp fans and applaud the troublemakers.” Sadly, all Grandjean seemed to do was provoke further bad-blood between the sides.
Compounding the incident was the Belgium FA’s response to the events. Speaking on the organisation’s behalf, Jean-Parie Philips expressed outrage against the chanting, while feebily accepting that the current law leaves the organisation impotent against taking any measures to curb such behaviour.
Philips: “This is intolerable, unacceptable, there must be sanctions. But the federation can not, unfortunately, punish the club, which can not be held responsible for the excesses of its supporters, as evidenced by a decree of July 2008 which could serve as a precedent.”
Footage of the Belgium bust-up can be seen here.