Union fans in Glasgow ready for historic European duel

Shiva Singh

Brussels, (Brussels Morning)- Some 300 ardent supporters must shout Union in Glasgow tonight to a historic qualification for the Champions League play-offs. Despite a 2-0 bonus, the return against Scottish Rangers promises to be tough, not least thanks to the 50,000 home fans in the swirling Ibrox Stadium. Although the decibels of the Rangers supporters do not seem to bother the Unionists who have travelled.

Last week, 8,200 Union fans transformed Den Dreef in Heverlee during the 2-0 win against Rangers into a bustling and cozy football stadium that occasionally reminded of the atmosphere in its own Joseph Marien stadium.

Small beer, the Scottish supporters will have thought from their sofa. In the Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow it will be a bit more intense tonight. The Rangers fans are known for being some of the loudest supporters in Europe. The Union supporters are waiting for a warm welcome in the first European match of the inhabitants of Brussels in 58 years.

Underestimation

“The atmosphere will indeed be completely different, but don’t underestimate us. We will do our best to be audible, “says Sofie to a BRUZZ reporter, who went to Glasgow on Monday with her partner Steve. “The first leg was great, but I do think Rangers underestimated Union. I fear they will be better prepared tonight.”

The couple from Uccle also fully believe in the chances of the vice champion. “However, we must remain realistic. The players are ready, but the atmosphere is going to impress. Don’t forget that this is a big club with a lot of experience on the international stage.”

“I hope my 2-1 prediction becomes reality, then we can go to the next round. Whatever it is, it’s unbelievable that we are here at all if you know where Union comes from.”

Also a fan of the first hour, Jean Van Roy has travelled to Glasgow, accompanied by his two sons and a few cousins. “I am the fourth generation of Union supporters in our family. I would never have dreamed that we are here for a European match. And after that we have already won one.”

While the Cantillon brewer is tasting some English beers, it is still calm in the city, he says. But soon all hell will break loose in Ibrox. “Players who come from lower divisions and now end up in a stadium like Rangers: it will be difficult. But on the other hand, we can even lose by a goal difference. I believe in it. It becomes important to get through the initial phase unscathed. If we can do that, we’re in good shape.”

Scottish confidence

Another part of ‘The Dear Green Place’, as the Scottish city with its many parks is called: diehard fan and Brussels MP Juan Benjumea.

“I arrived only four hours before the start of the game, so there is not much sightseeing except for the typical pubs for the time being. Tomorrow we will stay another day, hopefully after a great match. I’m betting on a 0-2 win .”

When Benjumea settled in the capital ten years ago, the Spanish citizens of Brussels started to follow the Union. “I thought that I could combine my support for the Spanish Real Betis with that for the then third division Union. Now they may soon meet in the Europa League.”

In that Europa League, losing finalist Rangers managed to grab the scalp of German top clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig last year. “The train conductor also said: ‘Watch out, because last year we didn’t leave much behind in Europe.’ On the street you see a lot of blue and you feel the confidence of the fans.”

A lot at stake

A lot will be at stake in the near future, not only in sporting terms, but also financially. A qualification for the last hurdle towards the group stage of the Champions League brings in five million euros for the inhabitants of Brussels, or almost half of the entire budget of last season.

In those play-offs, Union would also compete for a CL ticket against Monaco or PSV later this month – in any case again a nice poster. A qualifier for the ‘billions ball’ will make the blue-and-yellow cash register ring like never before.

The Rangers supporters will therefore do everything in their power to make life difficult for the Union players, but the team does not have history on its side. After all, in their rich European history, the Scots have never managed to erase a 2-0 deficit. A footnote to give the Unionists extra fuel.

Although Geraerts’ team will have to look a lot sharper than last Saturday, when the team from Brussels lost 3-0 at KV Mechelen.

‘Class’

But more important than history are the names on the field. The Europa League finalist can again call on Colombian goal thief Alfredo Morelos and former England youth international Ryan Kent tonight. Union in turn keeps the German sniper Dennis Eckert as an asset. The striker who came over from Ingolstadt returns from injury.

“You notice that the team has needed some adjustment time, but if you look at the performance from the first leg, you see that Union is already well connected. They still have a lot of classes,” Benjumea continues. “The main thing is that the team can demonstrate that last season’s performances did not just happen. In the meantime, the fans should have fun. Chances are we’ll never see this again.”

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Shiva is a professional digital marketer who covers the latest updates in the tech industry from across the globe. With an experience of over 5 years in the world of Information Technology, he likes to keep up with every major development and writes fact-based pieces backed by in-depth research.