There have been many highlights in European Footy this year, but one that was less trumpeted was the resurgence of Australian Football in Belgium. There was of course a very successful team based in Brussells from 2004, the Saints, but in recent years the club had stagnated and stalled meaning that by the time AFL Europe had formed there was no Belgian representation.
Over the last 12 months there has been a great deal of activity as Nicolas Perez Lozano, Brendan Stead and Bjorn de Bruyn attempted to get teams up and running in Brussels and Antwerpen. All involved in AFL Europe are delighted to see these positive steps, considering the rich history of Australian Football in Belgium, with games played by Australian Soldiers in Ypres(1916) and Chatelet(1919). Afleurope.org caught up with Nic Lozano to see what the future holds for Footy in Belgium.
Q. Tell us about the efforts to re-introduce football in Belgium this year.
A. Well, it started in two places pretty much at the same time. When I got back from Australia mid-2011, I wanted to get some people together and play a bit of footy. I knew about the Brussels Saints so I tried contacting them, got a few of my friends to come and kick the footy, and contacted a few aussie expats groups in Brussels.
That’s how I met the guys in Antwerpen, who had been playing a bit on their side, and we got together with a few more people and started having a few casual sessions around October.
We’ve been having about one or two sessions a month since then, most of them in Antwerpen, which led to our first couple of games last september, on the 29th, in Amstelveen, in Holland, for the inaugural Benelux Cup (Belgium v Amsterdam v Den Haag).
Q. What’s your in background in the sport, why do you love it?
A. Because it’s the best game ever? I started playing when I went to Australia, and fell in love with it. I Had no serious background in any other sport before that, so I was pretty unfit and unskilled, but loved it from day one! I started running, practicing, even when I was travelling, and I got to play a few games in Melbourne with the Hampton Rovers thirds before I left.
Q.What’s the plan now, a Belgian league? Join the Dutch or even a Benelux league, could we see a team in Luxembourg too?
A. At the moment, we’re not really thinking about a Belgian league. The Benelux cup was a great day, and there are plans about making it a yearly tournament. We also got some contacts in France, to maybe play some games against the northern french teams like Paris or Strasbourg.I don’t know anything about Luxembourg, but we’ll be sure to invite them to play in the Benelux Cup if they do start something over there!
Q. EuroCup 2013 in Bordeaux, will Belgium be there?
A. We would love to. It’s a bit early to say, but we’ll definitely do everything we can to be ready for next year!