International

Who is afraid of The “Diables rouges”?

Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerp and NV-A leader and Vincent Kompany, captain of Manchester United and the Belgian football team

Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerp and NV-A leader and Vincent Kompany, captain of Manchester United and the Belgian football team

Let’s talk about foot, in relation with my political blog of course.

Discovering the new La Libre Belgique’s website this morning, I read an article dealing with the conflicting relationship between Bart de Wever and Vincent Kompany.

The nationalist NV-A leader and mayor of Antwerp (since October 2012) and the current Diables Rouges (Red Devil) Belgian football team did not really appreciate each other. Indeed, the Belgian captain often gives his position regarding politics in his country, tackling Bart de Wever statements. On the last October for instance, just after the qualifying match against Scotland for the 2014 World Cup, the Belgian football player replied to the Flemish leader – who declared just after his political victory, “Antwerp belongs to everyone, especially to us tonight ” (that is to say, to Flemish nationalists) – tweeting in Dutch: “Belgium belongs to everyone, especially to us tonight”. This tweet provoked the anger of Bart de Wever.

Vincent Kompany does not play football only, he also shows a pro-Belgian attitude (belgitude in French) which annoys Flemish nationalist movements which have campaigned to get their “Copernican Revolution”, that means the move from a Federal Belgium to a con-Federal Belgium, prelude to a dismantlement of the country. Bart de Wever’s electoral successes are in favour of this strategy, a strategy the NV-A leader wants to impose during the 2014 legislative, European and (especially) regional elections that he wants to transform in a referendum pro or anti Belgium (in its current organization)

Nonetheless, Vincent Kompany’s statements may really hinder Bart de Wever’s strategy. It is needed to remind football is one of last collective sports to be really national in Belgium, as the existence of the Union Belge de football (UBF) proves. Moreover, the Red Devils’ excellent results in the 2014 World Cup qualifications give a real possibility for Belgium to participate to next competition in Brazil, after ten years of counter-performances. Belgian journalists and analysts really believe to it, thanks to this new generation of players led by Vincent Kompany and Marc Wilmots, current coach of the Begian team, also considered as a pro-Belgian.

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That probably explains why Bart de Wever refused to set a giant TV screen in his city, to not let Antwerp get contaminated by the upcoming euphoria. The probable participation of the Red Devils to the 2014 World Cup coincides with the Belgian legislative elections in which the Flemish leader wants to be inevitable vis-à-vis the French speaking politicians led by the current Belgian Premier, Elio di Rupo. But whatever the Red Devils sportive results, the support and enthusiasm around the Belgian football team might be problematic for Bart de Wever who wants to demonstrate that Flemish, Brussels and Walloon people have not clearly things in common anymore, and it is time to draw a conclusion. History often proved Belgian people could still be gathered but also united as it was the case during the 1986 (the Red Devils reached the semi-finals) and 2002 World Cups but also in other sports as athletics (with the Borlées’) cycling (with Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen) and tennis (with Justine Hénin and Kim Clijsters).

Finally, Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime minister (2008 then 2009 – 2010) did not so wrong when he declared that football, beer and chocolate were the only thing which put Belgians together.

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