“Let’s get it on”. 7.20am Sunday 17th April 2011. I was waiting outside East Croydon station for an Englishman, a Scotsman and a quasi-Spanishman. We were heading east to the Kent coast and further. Our purpose was of course football – why would it be anything else? Not just any old football either. Whilst England looked forward to the mouth-watering Bolton Wanderers versus Stoke City in the FA Cup Semi-Final, we were all over the Belgium EXQI League.
Sixty miles up the coast from Day Trip mecca Calais is the Belgium coastal town of Ostend. Or Oostend, even Oostende depending on how lazy you are when you type. Once home to the Belgium royal family when they wanted a knees up by the seaside, and a host venue for the 1920 Olympics when they hosted the sailing events on behalf of Antwerp down the road. Today it is fading a bit like Margate, unable to compete with the cheap package destinations of the Costa del Sol and the Algarve. But for a few hours it would be like paradise for us as we were here to see KV Oostende host Royal Antwerp.
I had been to the town twice, both times in transit to Bruges (or Brugge depending what day of the week it is). Once during Euro2000 when a group of us had used the now defunct Sea Cat from Dover to come over for the epic Yugoslavia v Spain game, and then on a Fuller-break when we flew from Stansted. Amazingly Ryanair actually launched this route and kept it open for nearly a year. Flight time? Approximately 23 minutes which I believe was their shortest ever route which meant that it was far too close a destination of interest to be viable. Continue reading