var _gaq = _gaq || ; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-26022117-1']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
The league champions have upset the top order this season, by integrating some of the brightest Belgian prospects alongside a solid core at the back. They have lifted the Belgian championship three times in their history.
Racing Genk, based in the eastern province of Limburg, was formed in 1988 after the merger of Waterschei S.V. Thor and K.F.C. Winterslag. Waterschei were the team involved in the Standard Liege scandal of 1982, in which they were paid to let Standard win and rest ahead of the Cup Winners Cup final. Both teams in their previous guises spent much of their history in the lower tiers as yo-yo clubs.
The first season as Racing Genk was a tough transitional one and the team finished bottom. It was only in 1996 that Genk began to make a charge to the top, under Aimé Anthuenis. They were 8th in 1996/97, then came runners-up the year after. Seemingly building a great squad, Anthuenis led Genk to their first league title in 1998/99, finishing two points ahead of Anderlecht. The partnership of Branko Strupar (Derby cult hero) and Soleymane Oulare was pivotal to their first place, getting 35 goals between them.
Anthuenis then moved to club giant Anderlecht, winning consecutive league titles with them as well. Genk struggled without him at the helm, dropping down the table. But not for long. In 2002, they won the title again, this time under the management of Dutchman, Sef Vergoosen. Wesley Sonck was banging in the goals for Genk around this time, getting 30 that season.
More recently, Genk won the Belgian Cup in 2009 despite poor league positions before winning the title this year.
Genk can count upon some of the best fans in the country and consistently getting some of the largest attendances. The Cristal Arena holds just shy of 25,000, with most of the hardcore fans being in the south stand. They are incredibly vocal in and around the stadium, and quite rightly swarmed the pitch for the title celebrations.
The manager – Francky Vercauteren
The former Anderlecht winger found his feet at Genk, after a disappointing end to his tenure with the club that made him and as national team coach. He focuses on developing youth players and with players such as Kevin De Bruyne coming through, it’s a system that has reaped the dividends.
He favours a solid 4-4-2 that encourages exciting play, with much of the creativity coming through Daniel Toszer, a dead-ball specialist.
The key players
Genk seem to have a very good team spirit which ultimately saw them as a title contender throughout the regular season and playoffs. Of that side, some players do stick out. Kevin De Bruyne is a fascinating player to watch. A young industrious midfielder, often on the left wing before cutting in with devastating effect. He also scored this beauty this season. No wonder he’s linked to every club under the sun.
There’s also Jelle Vossen. A targetman who at the beginning of the season was scoring with practically every touch he had. He dipped in the middle of the campaign but put in some vital performance at the ends. He’s another linked with a move away, but Italy seems the favoured destination.
Thibaut Courtois deserves all the plaudits he gets too. With scouts fawning over the next top Belgian goalkeeper, he played every minute in the season and made vital stops in big games, none bigger than the last game against Standard Liège. He’s only 19 as well and it wouldn’t surprise many to see him play for a much bigger team.
Genk have qualified for next season’s Champions League qualifying round, although they may want to fare better than they did in 02/03. They finished bottom of a tough group that featured Real Madrid and Roma, without winning a game. They did claim four creditable draws. If the squad stays together this summer, they could be an unseeded threat in the Champions side of the draw.
As far as the league goes, Anderlecht are in transition, Standard could be a threat and Club Brugge don’t look a force yet either. It could be Genk’s time to hold onto to the top prize.
Did You Know?