The National Sport of Belgium is Soccer.
Soccer in Belgium is passionate and thrilling, bringing together fans with its rich history and vibrant atmosphere.
To learn more about sports culture in Belgium, read our article about the most popular sports in Belgium.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Soccer
- 1895: Formation of the Belgian Football Association (Royal Belgian Football Association or KBVB/URBSFA).
- 1900-1903: Belgian clubs participate in the first few editions of the Coupe de Championnat, an early national competition.
- 1904: Belgium becomes a founding member of FIFA, the international governing body for soccer.
- 1920: Belgium wins its first Olympic gold medal for soccer during the Antwerp Olympic Games.
- 1930: Belgian national team participates in the inaugural FIFA World Cup, held in Uruguay.
- 1986: Belgium achieves its best FIFA World Cup result by placing fourth in the tournament held in Mexico.
- 2018: Belgium’s national team secures third place at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, led by its “Golden Generation” of players.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Soccer in Belgium transcends beyond the sport itself, serving as an integral part of the country’s cultural identity. As a unifying force, soccer bridges the gap between the different linguistic and regional communities in the country, fostering national pride and solidarity.
Belgium’s Pro League, home to its top-tier clubs, boasts a passionate fan base with several clubs having dedicated supporters and long-standing rivalries. Matches like the “Clasico” between Anderlecht and Standard Liege or the “Antwerp Derby” between Royal Antwerp and Beerschot engage fans in spirited celebrations and rituals.
During major international tournaments such as the World Cup or European Championships, Belgians come together to support their national team, often referred to as the “Red Devils.” Public viewings, fan zones, and vibrant street gatherings turn into a sea of red, reflecting the enthusiasm and camaraderie among Belgian soccer fans.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
- Objective: Each team tries to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
- Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
- Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
- Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
- Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
- Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
- Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
- Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.
#4 Modern Development of Soccer
In recent years, soccer in Belgium has continued to evolve with a greater emphasis on youth development and nurturing local talent. The rise of the Belgian national team’s “Golden Generation” is a testament to this, with the team currently ranking among the world’s best.
Technology has also had a significant impact on the sport, with the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and goal-line technology to aid in fair decision-making during matches. These innovations have had a direct influence on the game both in Belgium and on the global stage.
Moreover, the increasing globalization and commercialization of soccer have resulted in attracting international investment and players to Belgium’s Pro League. This influx has raised the league’s profile and competitiveness, benefiting both soccer’s development in Belgium and the entertainment value for fans.
#5 Soccer and the Olympics
Soccer has been a part of the Olympic Games since the early 20th century, with Belgium’s national team making its first appearance in 1900. The nation secured its first Olympic gold medal in soccer during the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games, providing a significant boost to the sport’s popularity and growth in the country.
The Olympic stage has long served as a platform for soccer to gain global recognition, showcasing emerging talents and fostering international rivalries. In the case of Belgium, their Olympic success in the early years laid the foundation for developing a strong soccer culture and fan base, contributing to the sport’s continued prominence in the nation.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Eden Hazard: Widely considered one of the world’s best attacking players, Hazard has been instrumental in Belgium’s national team success, as well as achieving numerous individual and club honors.
- Kevin De Bruyne: Regarded as one of the top midfielders in the world, De Bruyne has won domestic titles, individual awards, and has been a key figure in Belgium’s “Golden Generation.”
- Romelu Lukaku: One of Belgium’s leading goal-scorers and a dominant presence on the field, Lukaku has enjoyed success across multiple European leagues, as well as representing his country at the highest level.
- Jan Ceulemans: A legendary figure in Belgian soccer, Ceulemans played in three World Cups during the 1980s, with a record 96 appearances for the national team, paving the way for future generations of talent.
#7 Where to watch Soccer
- Television and Streaming: Leading platforms such as Proximus, Telenet, and Eleven Sports offer coverage of domestic and international soccer matches, including the Belgian Pro League, UEFA Champions League, and major tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and European Championships.
- Notable Stadiums: To experience the excitement of live soccer, visit iconic Belgian venues like King Baudouin Stadium (Brussels), Jan Breydel Stadium (Bruges), and Ghelamco Arena (Ghent), which are home to top clubs and host international matches and friendlies.