Friday, 16 July 2010

R Charleroi SC (Belgium)

Royal Charleroi Sporting Club hail, unsurprisingly, from Charleroi, the largest city in Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia. Known familiarly as The Zebras, they first formed in 1904, as a more humble Charleroi Sporting Club, and were only awarded their Royal prefix a little after their promotion to the second division in the late 1920s. They finally ascended to the top flight in 1947. In the early days they had a fierce rivalry with the city's Royal Olympic Club, who at the time were the more successful of the pair - although those roles have reversed in recent years.

They spent the next sixty years being a bit of a yo-yo club, finishing as high as second in 1969, but dropping back down a level two years later. This was until 1985, when they most recently worked their way to the top flight, and have stayed there ever since.

Their only major honour was as Second division champions in 1947, but also been losing finalists in the Belgian Cup a couple of times too. They've even had a couple of modest runs in Europe, reaching the UEFA Cup twice, and having a few good runs in the Intertoto in the 1990s, where they once gave Wimbledon a 3-0 drubbing.

Notable former players include Belgian caps Philippe Albert, Enzo Scifo, and Leo Van Der Elst, former QPR and Millwall star Gary Waddock, Nigerian international Victor Ikpeba, a surprising amount of Iranian internationals and even dear old Laurie Cunningham - although he only played a single game before he departed for an ill-fated stint at Wimbledon.

They play at the Stade du Pays de Charleroi, a curious 24,891-capacity ground with towering wedge-shaped stands that was the site of England's embarassing defeat to Romania in the 2000 European Championship group stages.

The club is currently owned by Iranian Businessman Abbas Bayat, a soft drinks tycoon, who has given a pair of his nephews jobs at the club.

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