The disturbing call of the young capo spreads through the bays of the Stade Marien like a fire in a meadow. The gallery is ablaze with passion and responds with one voice: “Augh! Oh! Oh! The young Unionists proudly revive this nickname – Apaches – which was that of their elders at the dawn of the 20th century. But what is the origin of this nickname?
We do not know the exact origin of the nickname Apaches which was granted to our players at the beginning of the 20th century. On the other hand, what we are certain of is that it is related with the Parisian Apaches, who were gangs of young delinquents that were known for their bad behaviour and other brutalities committed in the French capital. These petty criminals haunted the minds of the bourgeois of the Belle Époque.
By browsing the sports media outlets of the time, we see that the Unionist game of football was quite rough, to say the least! During the 1902-1903 season, it was not uncommon for the opposing team to lose one or more of its men during the match due to the brutality committed by Saint-Gillois. A player like Roger Piérard, a tough defender, was feared on the pitch in the same way as a Guillaume Vanden Eynde or a certain Isidore Staatje.
In his memoirs, Robert Coppée remembers the training he shared as a cadet with the executives of the first team: “Please believe that when you had to play against a Piérard who spared you no more than if you had been a personal adversary to him, it was hard to get by. This same Piérard did not hesitate to correct a spectator when he perceived an insult thrown at him even if it meant being excluded by the referee. Éric Cantona is therefore not a pioneer in the field.
His friend Guillaume Vanden Eynde also enjoyed a reputation as an aggressive player. He will also be excluded from competition by the Belgian Football Federation after an attack perpetrated on Charles Cambier, a player of FC Brugeois and team member in the national team, during the Brussels exhibition tournament in 1910. Cambier will get away with a broken leg and a few weeks of enforced rest.
Extract from the book ‘Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, 125 years, the official book’. Available from October 25th at the Club House and on the online fanshop.