The miracle in Belgium – The awakened giant after 48 years returned to the first league and is the leader on the table

Zlatko Ilijevski
17 Nov 2021

The idiom of the sleeping giant first coined in sports by the English media (Sleeping Giant) best describes the Belgian club Royal Union Saint-Gilloise, known simply as the Belgian Union. The owner of this club since May 2018 is the English millionaire and professional poker player, Tony Bloom, who since 2009 has been leading the Premier League in Brighton, England with great success.

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Brussels Royal Union Saint-Gilloise is one of the most trophy-winning sports teams in the country, with a number of titles won just behind Anderlecht and Club Brugge.

Why is this club so unknown even to the Belgians themselves? Because they have not played in the first league since 1973! And the last title "Unionists" won in the distant 1935. They have a total of 11 championship trophies.

They are little known in Belgium, but Tony Bloom's investment in 2018 woke the sleeping giant from a deep sleep. Union today is the leader in the Belgian elite first league with 4 points ahead of the second place, with the most goals scored and the fewest goals conceded. Last round they beat Charleroi with 4: 0!

Royal Union Union-Gilloise
Royal Union Union-Gilloise

But it is not about money, on the contrary, the owners do not spend a broken fanning of new, precious stars, but bring free football players.

The Belgian league is not among the top championships in the table of odds in UEFA is on the 13th place, between Serbia and Switzerland. Although the Belgian clubs regularly and with solid success play in the European Cups and their youth academies in recent years regularly extract new pearls for European football.

Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Benteke, Origi started in the modest KRC Genk, in Standard Liege Axel Witzel, Marouane Fellaini and Michi Batshuayi etc.

In that sense, the Union Saint- Gilloise club is not a talent factory. In the last 50 years, the club academy has not taken out any famous players who have reached the big European clubs. The last known name from them in 2004 was Nabil Dirar who played in the midfield and shone in Club Brugge, in Monaco and Fenerbahce, and with the national team of Morocco he played in two matches from the 2018 World Cup.

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Before the start of the new season 2021/2022, the management of the club increased the budget to 15 million euros. Fans expected serious reinforcements and an attack on Europe, but club owner Tony Bloom remained true to his convictions. They did not spend a single cent on transfers, although a new season awaited them in the strongest league in Belgium. Union in the elite plays with the same composition, whose value according to Transfermarkt is 16.2 million euros. At the same time, the composition of Club Brugge is worth 166 million euros, KRC Genk 134 million euros, and Anderlecht 90 million euros. Only the new left-back came, Bart Newkop from Feyenoord, who did not fight for a chance at his club at the age of 25, and he was fired for free, and the Japanese Kaora Mitoa came, who Brighton had previously bought from the Japanese Kawasaki. Bloom and Muzzio have denied that they want to make Union a branch for young talent from Brighton, England. The Japanese is the only exception.

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With the same team they played with in the second league, now after 14 rounds played in the Belgian first league Union Saint- Gilloise has 10 wins, 1 draw and 3 defeats. With a goal difference of 33:13 and 31 points, they are the leaders of the table before Antwerp and Club Brugge. After 14 rounds played, the tandem Vanzeir - Undav scored 17 goals with 13 assists of both and are the most efficient tandem in the league. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has even called Vanzier to the national team on a wider roster in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

In the quiet district of Saint-Gilles, they are already dreaming of their 12th championship title. Belgian journalists have increasingly asked the club's boss, Alex Mucio, when they will start building a new stadium with owner Tony Bloom, why the old "Joseph Marien" with the old stands gathers only 8,000 spectators, much less than the number who wants to see the awakened giant.

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