Enfield Town 3-1 Leatherhead
Footballing friends reunited: Towners host Beveren fans at the QEII
Enfield Town’s league rivals Leatherhead were not the only visitors to the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium this Saturday. Joining them in EN1 were a large and brilliantly raucous group of YB SK Beveren supporters, come to renew their remarkable international friendship with Town.
YB SK Beveren currently play in the Belgian Fourth Provincial League. Like Town, they lay claim to being the first fan-owned club in their home country and it was owing to this link between the two clubs that they were initially brought together to contest the 2013 Supporters Direct Cup in a game the Towners won 8-2. Since then, they have maintained close links.
Bradley Quinton’s men made their first foray into Europe with a trip to Beveren’s home ground in pre-season. More than 100 Towners made the journey with them, making the game as much a social affair as a sporting one. Accordingly, Town made ready to play host again at the weekend.
With the Beveren fans arriving a few hours before kick off, the Butler’s Bar was opened early; likewise, plenty of food was laid on. After catching up and reminiscing, both sets of fans headed out onto the sunny terraces to watch Town take on Leatherhead in a crucial match for either side’s play-off ambitions. The atmosphere did not disappoint.
Jumping, singing and whirling their specially made Enfield-Beveren half-and-half scarves throughout, the mixed mass of supporters behind the goal made a real occasion of it.
The home players seemed inspired by the buoyant mood and in what was surely one of their best performances of the season, an attacking masterclass from Town swept Leatherhead away 3-1; Corey Whitely, Ryan Doyle and Bobby Devyne got the winning goals and The Towners could have scored several more.
In a telling show of gratitude, the Enfield management and playing staff came over to salute the jubilant fans at the final whistle, taking time to shake hands and snap pictures with the Beveren and Town faithful alike. After more songs in both English and Flemish, it was back to the bar for an extended celebration of the win; with live music from vocal duo Katie and Charlee going on until late in the evening, the entertainment wasn’t limited to the pitch.
As well as enjoying the hospitality, many of the Beveren fans made generous contributions to the QEII’s new collection point for the North Enfield Foodbank. The relationship between the two clubs is clearly about more than just a seasonal party vibe; this gesture did not go unnoticed amongst the home support.
Certainly, then, all those Enfield Town fans who attended Saturday’s reunion will be looking forward to the next visit of their Belgian compatriots. In the meantime, however, it is Beveren’s turn to host once more.
No doubt they will happily oblige, and no doubt this close footballing friendship will continue.
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Photo courtesy: William Magee