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The striker of the Belgian national team was a neighbor of terrorists. However, this had no impact on his life and he is now getting ready to replace Lukaku Report from the infamous part of Brussels

Миши Батшуаи
Фото: AP
Before the match against Russia, the Belgian national team was struck by the abundance of injuries. Yet it is not an issue: within the last years, the most electrified European state, has bred enough football players to replace them instantly regardless the position. 

The events of March 22, 2016, when terrorists attacked the Zaventem airport and the Brussels metro, did not fundamentally change the attitude of Belgians towards immigrants. Although before that, there was a terrible attack in Paris in November 2015, and Salah Abdeslam, who led it, was originally from Brussels. The police looked for him in the area of Molenbeek – less than a kilometer from the hectoliters of beer, a peeing boy of Manneken pis and Grand Place tulips. From there the terrorists had left for the Parisian boulevards.

Molenbeek is 100,000 inhabitants on six square kilometers, two metro stops from the headquarters of the European organizations. The area has about twenty mosques, more than half of which are unofficial.

The parents of Michy Batshuayi came to Belgium from Congo. Back home the situation was getting worse, whereas in Brussels things were getting better. Most foreign residents came to the Belgian capital with a similar motivation. Including those who established in Molenbeek. It used to be an ordinary worker’s district, until industrialization did not require areal extensions. Factories were moved outside the city limits and Molenbeek’s population mostly consisted of those who according to the old-time rhetoric were called for “cheap labor force”. Including Batshuayi, who last year has helped Borussia Dortmund as a temporary player – 7 goals in 10 matches. If you have a habit of pouring in right away, it is dangerous, right?

From the “Simonis” metro station within 10 minute walk from both Molenbeek and Koekelberg, the fields of the Genesis Molenbeek Academy are located. Half past three, dads take their already dressed up sons to the training. Moms in hijabs and strollers pass by. The place is peaceful, the children are happy, the parents are smiling. Not so long ago, Adnan Januzaj, another Belgian national striker (Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund in charge) ran around the same spot. If only the world realized its own absurdity…

England’s victories of major tournaments have always seemed incredible. VAR would have now revoked the decision of Tofik Bakhramov in the final of the 1966 World Cup, few people understood how the team of Gareth Southgate advanced to the semifinals in Russia a year ago. There was no exception in 1990, when the British also reached the semifinals. When David Platt, in the last minute of the extra time in the 1/8 finals against Belgium, turning himself for a second into a Rodin statue, caught the ball from the half-turn and made a goal out of Paul Gascoyne's unobvious flank pitch, the Belgian commentator was mournfully silent for several seconds. Then he uttered: “It’s unfair. So unfair... ".

Michel Preud'homme in the goal. Georges Grün, Leo Clijsters, Eric Gerets in the defense. Midfield – Frankie van der Elst and Enzo Scifo. Attack – Marc Degryse and Jan Ceulemans. It was the best team in the history of Belgium before the generation of Hazard, and they deserved to beat England. Four years before this disaster, the “Red devils” themselves were in the semifinals of the World Cup, however, forcing the entire Soviet Union to talk about injustice. These successes did not come from the spur of the moment, even if a club like Mechelen (now hanging between the first and second leagues) won the final of the European Cup in 1988 against Ajax. At the same time, Molenbeek was already in the public eye. 

FC Jeunesse Molenbeek Academy prepares football players also for RWD Molenbeek. This club has a little less than 600 members, 85% of which are of Arabic origin. In training and games, “salaam alaikum” is more frequently heard than “bonjour”. The 1975 champion of Belgium and the semi-finalist of the UEFA Cup in 1970 is gradually recovering from bankruptcy thanks to the efforts of Belgian patriots. Including new ones: children from Molenbeek rarely wear Messi, Ronaldo or even Hazard jerseys – they are mostly dressed in the colors of their club, which requires affection roughly from the moment children learn to speak. The price of 350 euros, which parents spend annually, is also obligatory – not everyone has the opportunity to own a fancy closet. It is more of a “you wear what you bought” lifestyle.

Social responsibility is more important than transmission technology. A good player must be a good guy. Family, school, and football – that is the creed and without its recognition there is nothing to search for in Molenbeek. Often coaches want to check on school grades before the training, and if those are unsatisfying, a boy is easily deprived of happiness from touching the ball. In a neighborhood with a high unemployment rate, such methods make sense and have the force. Especially in relation to the age at which the temptation of going hammer and tongs against authorities is especially strong.

Police and Interpol were looking for Abdeslam right here. But the journalists who had identified the followers of the “wrong Salah” among the pupils of the Molenbeek academy, left disappointed. Nobody was able to feed stories about the radicalization of local football players. In addition, every second of them lives in the streets, where after sunset it is really better not to appear without a special reason.

7000 spectators watched “Molenbeek” entering the second amateur league – it says something. Away games are a serious problem because there are no stadiums in village leagues able to accommodate all Molenbeek fans. This difficulty was recently surpassed in Switzerland by FC Zurich, which in 2016 dropped one rank lower. But still, FC Zurich is a professional club, almost irreversibly assigned to the top division. Molenbeek remained on the political, but not the sports map of the TV channels. Though its patriots remained. This is the love of true Bruxelloises, those hiding in the splits – Union, which recently was in the top league and could play on King Baudouin’s because of its important municipal status. Anderlecht, the club of all Brabant, in the center of which Brussels is located, has rarely, but always painfully tripped over neighbors' fury.

The goal of RWD is to have a team in every age group, like Anderlecht or Standard. As far as ambitious, just as feasible – it is understandable why. Molenbeek has one more task: to prove that good fights evil. If you meet a boy in northern Brussels who enjoys going to the gym, you will probably stop thinking for at least a second about how scary it is to live. The clock, meanwhile, will continue to count: how many good have fled from the bad; how few good guys died and how many good guys are left; how few bad guys there are in the Molenbeek that prevent many good from living, and so on. And all this takes place in Belgium, which used to dangle around the first line of the FIFA rating.

Ivan Zhidkov 

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