Was Flanders, the northern region of what is now Belgium, the place where cricket began?1815 and all that...
Recently published research has again indicated that Flemish weavers and shepherds who emigrated to the south of England from the 14th century onwards could have taken the game of cricket along with them.
The new findings place Flemish ‘creckettes’ and ‘weckettes’ in the south of England in the mid-16th century, a time that coincides with a painting by the Flemish Master Pieter Breugel The Elder which is said to show an early form of the game.
Whatever the case, there is then a gap of almost three centuries until we arrive at the first recorded cricket match in what is now Belgium.
In one of those curious twists of history, this actually pre-dates Belgium itself by some 16 years. British Guards officers performed the honours, playing a match shortly before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Matches have been played to mark the 150th and 175th anniversaries of this occasion and the 200th is approaching fast.
The first record of organised cricket, however, can be found in a painting (left) dated 1870 which now hangs in the Pavilion at Lord’s. This shows the opening of the Brussels Cricket Club ground in 1866 by the Mayor of Brussels.
The next club was the Antwerp Football and Cricket Club, founded in 1880 by expatriate British workers. Early in the 20th century the football and cricket divisions of the club parted company – the football club is now in Belgium’s 2nd Division, while the cricket side remains one of the country’s leading clubs.
More and more clubs were formed in the 1950s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Today, 18 clubs and one school are members of either the Belgian Cricket Federation or its regional Flemish organisation Cricket Vlaanderen. In addition, there are a number of teams representing businesses and other organizations playing in a mid-week T20 competition and other non-League events. In all, there are nine cricket grounds in Belgium.
The history of international competition in Belgium dates from the very early 1900s with the first fixture against Holland played at Beerschot in 1905. A quadrangular international tournament was held in Brussels several years later. The fixture against Holland became a regular feature of the calendar for some 70 years with De Telegraaf Cup at stake. Although this tradition has faded, Belgium and Holland maintain close ties. Belgium has also played a full role in ECC and now ICC-Europe senior and junior tournaments. The country has had some success over the years, notably at youth level.Domestic competition
Due to its central position in Europe and its many grounds, Belgium has hosted a considerable number of European tournaments since 1999 and continues to do so.
From the early 1900s until 1967, both Brussels and Antwerp played in the Dutch league. After the formation of the Belgian Cricket Federation, league cricket started. Today there are four divisions. The fourth Division is for second teams and any new clubs joining the federation. National development teams also play in this division. An annual sixes competition is held in Gent and is hosted by Arcadians CC. There are also youth leagues for under 15s, 13s and 11s. The national teams and some of the leading club sides at these levels also play in the Dutch competition. The Belgo-Lux Association of Cricket Umpires (BLACU) trains umpires and organises umpiring for international, league and other matches.Development programme
Cricket Belgium has always placed a strong emphasis on youth development. This commitment was realised when a full-time coach was employed in early 2006. The coach’s main area of work is in the schools and in after-school cricket. Introductory cricket training sessions for teachers have been a great success.
A women’s tournament with up to 40 players is organized by Royal Brussels CC each year. In 2010 a girls’ squad is travelling to Hungary to take part in a mini-tournament there.