The 125-year book (3): The most beautiful stadium in Europe

Union Saint-Gilloise has published the book “Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, 125 years, the official book” to celebrate its 125th anniversary. In this series, we go through some fragments of the book. Our third excerpt is about how “the most beautiful stadium in Europe” was built.

Callewaert turned the Union stadium into a gigantic art-deco gem. Seven bas-reliefs by the sculptor Oscar De Clerck are integrated into the facade, which is nearly 110 meters long. This facade becomes one of the most beautiful curiosities of Brussels. The stadium pays homage to sport, but also to the optimism and grandeur that characterized the 1920s. La Libre Belgique claims that it is “the most beautiful in Europe”. It is hardly exaggerated.

The work was like a sprint. The first stone was solemnly laid on the 3rd of May, 1926. The site was enormous, especially since new foundations had to be planned. But four months later, the stadium was ready. The official inauguration took place at the end of August. Joseph Marien Construction of the metal frame of the new stand. On the program, a clash in athletics between Union and La Gantoise, and a gala football match against the Dutch Dordrechtsche Football Club. Under glorious sunshine, in the presence of Prince Charles and all the political and football personalities of Brussels, Union lost 3-6. The opponent was however not of an exceptional level.

The very first goal in the new stadium was scored by a Unionist: the young Jean Verhelst, who remained at the club until 1934. It was, at the limit, the most beautiful feat of his rather discreet career. Like the journey of a good part of the teammates of his generation. They will not mark the history of Belgian football. Émile Hanse and Robert Coppée feature in the squad facing Dordrecht, but they were 34 and 31 respectively. They were clearly much closer to the end than the beginning. Hanse played there until 1927, Coppée until 1929. When he retires, there is no one left at Union, who was part of the team which won the Olympic final. And their successors will not be of the same level… to say the least.

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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.