Ground: Ghelamco Arena
Date: 3rd November 2016
Match: Gent - Shakhtar Donetsk 3-5 (UEFA Europa League)
Attendance: 14 526
Thursday evenings means Europa League football and my choice was Gent v Shakhtar Donetsk. Staying the night in Bochum I had around 4,5 hours in different trains ahead of me before arriving in Gent. My first change of trains was in Köln but with the ICE-train to Brussels being 20 minutes delayed I missed my connection train in Brussels. I didn´t have to wait for too long though and at 14.35 I finally arrived at Gent Sint Pieters station and my hotel was then only a 100 m or so from the station. With the weather being nice I decided to do some sightseeing in the city centre. The city centre was a 25-minute walk from the train station but being a bit tired from all my travelling I decided to go by tram. A few years ago I was in Brugge, a city with perhaps the nicest city centre in all of Europe. Gent is only 50 km from Brugge and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by what Gent have to offer. A lot of old buildings, a castle and a cathedral in combination with a canal made this a very enjoyable afternoon. As I was getting hungry after all the sightseeing I also stopped at a restaurant opposite the castle for a well-deserved dinner. After going back by tram to my hotel I then rested for a few hours before leaving for the ground.
KAA Gent was founded in 1900 and is the 7th oldest football club in Belgium. The club won the Belgian league title, for the first time ever, in 2015. Between 1920 and 2013 KAA Gent played at Jules Ottenstadion but the last three seasons the club has played at Ghelamco Arena (Arteveldestadion). Capacity of Ghelamco Arena is 20 000 (all-seated) and to me the ground feels fresh and modern. The bar areas inside the ground are very spacious with plenty of tables etc. Since the ground is far from the train station and I couldn´t find any buses or trans taking me back after the game I booked a taxi. The ground was lit up in a blue colour and once dropped off I took a few exterior pictures before going to my entrance. I knew it is not allowed to bring rucksacks into Belgian football grounds anymore and I had a simple plastic bag with my extra pullover. At the security I was told I could not bring my plastic bag into the ground. I put it in my pocket but was told to throw it away. I could only shake my head in disbelief but was eventually allowed to enter. My seat was in row 25 of Tribune 3. To my right was the official away section and I was quite surprised to see a group of 25-30 Donetsk fans in the block to my left. They were wearing club colours but apparently that was allowed. The ground filled up and in total 14 526 were at this Europa League game. Those of us present had an entertaining 90 minutes ahead of us. 20 seconds gad been played when Gent scored to make it 1-0. Shakhtar Donetsk are a very good team though and by half-time it was 1-3 on the score-board. The equalizer was from the penalty spot but it was above all the counter-attacks that impressed me. So quickly from defense to Gent´s penalty area. In the second half four more goals were scored: 1-4 (67 min), 2-4 (83 min), 2-5 (87 min) and finally 3-5 in the 89th minute.
Shakhar Donetsk have won every game in the group stage and are already through to the knock-out rounds. Their supporters waved Ukrainian flags and chanted U-kra-i-na during the game and hopefully the club can soon move back to their home in eastern Ukraine. At the moment they are playing home games in Lvov in western Ukraine. I was back at my hotel around 23.30 and tomorrow the tour continues as I head towards Rotterdam for the last two games.
Interior of Ghelamco Arena
View of play