Sporting Charleroi: A season of turmoil
April 24, 2011 3 Comments
Yesterday, after the long and protracted relegation saga, Charleroi were relegated to the 2nd tier of Belgian football after 26 years amongst the elite clubs.
It was a bleak day in the history of the club. Several top Belgian players have plied their trade at Charleroi, notably Enzo Scifo, Philippe Albert whilst Daniel Van Buyten and Everton’s Marouane Fellaini both came through Charleroi’s youth system.
But memories of past glories and European qualfication have well and truly been eradicated this season. Everything that could have gone wrong this season did go wrong. If you were to compare this campaign to that of an English side, it would have to be Newcastle United 08/09. With the obvious comparisons of playing in the same colours, and having expectations that outstrip the actual quality of the side, there’s another glaring similarity to Newcastle. A megalomaniac chairman.
Abbas Bayat certainly courts controversy. The Iranian businessman took over the club in the middle of the last decade, and has instigated a slow decline ever since. Since Jacky Mathijssen left in 2007, the club has had 10 different managers including Scots John Collins and Tommy Craig, as well as former Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo who given the chop right at the end of this year. The maximum tenure being one full season if you’re lucky.
Just this season alone, Charleroi have had 5 different bosses – a ridiculous number. Even more ridiculous when you find out Charleroi changed boss after losing one playoff game. Still, to balance, Eupen sacked their boss and brought back Danny Ost, which proved to be a good move.
The season started terribly for Les Carolos. A win against Eupen on Matchday 2 was their only one in the Jupiler Pro League until February, making them a nailed on candidate for the relegation playoffs. Off the field, Bayat sacked his nephew Mogi, who was general manager at the club. Seemingly not face-to-face according to some reports.
With only one win to their name, Bayat scoured the European free agent market for players, adding 11 new players in January. According to my possibly inaccurate calculations, Charleroi have used around 40 players during the season, taking squad rotation to levels that only Rafa Benitez knows.
Only one newcomer has proved to be a great signing – Dudu Biton from Israeli club Hapoel Petah Tikva, who’s scored 5 goals in his 11 games at the club. That’s around 25% of the squad’s entire goals all season, possibly suggesting why Charleroi are at rock bottom.But from February onwards, Charleroi put up a little fight, picking up the odd win against fellow strugglers. But all in vain in the end.
Now, as many of you know who follow me on Twitter, I don’t like the Playoff system in Belgium. Actually it’s pretty complex and stupid, considering the fact that Standard Liege can win the league after a dire regular season being 16 points off the pace.
The relegation format is equally bamboozling. Five games between the bottom two, with Eupen getting a 3 point head-start, and an extra game at home. However, the football for the neutral has been breathtaking – with so much on the line, things get tense and inevitably players lost it. See Game No.3 – Eupen 4-2 Charleroi, which ultimately left Charleroi on the brink
Last night’s game was equally enthralling. Eupen went two up thanks to Macedonian Marko Obradovic’s brace minutes after coming on. The second was a fantastic looping long-ranger, which caused a Charleroi season-ticket holder to run onto the field, and the rest duly followed. The Charleroi ultras began to throw missiles onto the field and play was stopped. Not the first time that the fans have got into hot water, after the Walloon derby incident where tennis balls were thrown onto the pitch.
After a seven minute hold-up, the game restarted and Charleroi were invigorated, scoring twice through Kudemor and Biton deep, deep in injury time. By that I mean 13 minutes into injury time
Their valliance wasn’t enough. Charleroi were down. Eupen now face three playoff sides in D2 to see who earns the right to play in the Jupiler Pro League next season
Hooligans rioted outside with police, who deployed the water cannons. While their actions are wrong, you can understand the frustration of the faithful. A sad day for Charleroi. But who’s to blame?
If you were to ask former manager Jacky Mathijssen, it’s entirely down to the chairman. If you were to ask the fans – it’s entirely down to the chairman.
Charleroi 10/11 – a dummy’s guide for how not to run a football club. They’ll be back, but will it take the chairman to step down for that to occur?