‘t Forum

‘t Forum – Okapi Aalstar

Getting to the venue

Okapi’s venue is in Aalst in Belgium. Once in Aalst it’s a short walk from the centre or there is a car park at the venue if you want to drive.

We got to Aalst by car and parked in an Interparking car park as our chosen hotel did not have parking.

The venue

The venue itself is not that big but they have used every bit of space to get more seats in. The seats themselves are of the hard plastic variety, common at basketball venues.

There were a couple of bars in the venue but we didn’t try any out. This was mainly because the seats were so crammed together it was difficult to get out.

I would recommend checking your seat location carefully when you order. We were sat courtside at the end of the away bench. This was okay for us as were actually supporting the away team but it did make it difficult to follow the game if the team decided to stand up.

Aalst

There is a great bar called Bierhuis ‘t Apostelken which is just down from the venue. It has a beer menu and sells other drinks as well.

Sleuyter Arena/Versluys|Dôme

Team – Telenet Oostende

Getting to City – We take the Eurotunnel so we can drive the whole way.

Going by bus is cheaper but longer. You can also get there by train from Brussels or Antwerp if you are already in Belgium.

City – There is a good amount of things to do in Ostend. I have personally experienced the Promonade and the Atlantic Wall Museum.

Getting to Venue –  Ostend is not huge so if you can easily walk from your hotel, if you are staying in town. There is also a large car park if you are driving.

Venue – A good sized venue with the usual plastic seats.

Food in venue –  The venue has four bars and sells the usual range of options.

 

Antwerp Sportpaleis

Team – Antwerp Giants

Getting to City – Antwerp has an airport, you can fly there from London and several other European cities. We tend to take the Eurotunnel as the drive is only a few hours (you can easily drive there on a Saturday, watch a Saturday evening game and return home on the Sunday, assuming you love within about 3 hours of the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal).

You can also get there using Euroline buses but that will take significantly longer.

Antwerp – If you like cobbled street and Belgian beer this is a city you should visit. If you are planning a Eurotunnel overnight trip you won’t have a lot of time to see the city unless you allow for an early Saturday start and a late Sunday return.

If you do have time to explore, highlights include:

  • the Grote Markt (market square)
  • De Koninck (brewery)
  • St Anna’s Tunnel

There are also several museums, art galleries and churches.

Getting to venue– Your ticket to the sportpaleis will give you free transport on the trams to and from the event and there is a tram stop just outside the venue. If you are planning to travel around from earlier in the day or the following day a daily tram ticket is 6 euro if purchased in advance (8 euro if purchased on the tram).

If you choose to drive to the venue there is ample parking which is 5 euro for the duration of the event.

Venue –  This is a large venue, also used for gigs I believe. The venue is well signposted so it is really easy to find your seat. The seats themselves are the usually plastic seats found in sports venue so there are average for comfort.

If you are not used to Belgian venues an important point to note is that you will be charged for using the facilities (washrooms/restrooms/WCs) so make sure you have some change to hand, about 80 eurocents each should be enough.

Food in venue – The venue gets massive bonus points for efficiency, they have a great system for pouring and serving drinks so even if there is a big queue it won’t take long to get served. The usual fair of beer, wine, sparkling wine, fries etc. is available. Price are reasonable.They have a large Haribo stall but I think this is overpriced.

 

Gravelines Sportica

Team – BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque

Getting to Gravelines

We drove to Gravelines, which was relatively easy. There is a train station  to the south of Gravelines so you can use public transport to get there, but this will involve three trains and although two of those journeys are nice and short the frequency of the trains will mean the journey can take several hours.

Gravelines itself

There are a couple of hotels in Gravelines as well as restaurants and bars but this is a small town so there is not a huge range and definitely no chain venues. (Which is a good thing in my opinion)

Getting to the venue

If you are staying in Gravelines you can easily walk to the venue, it takes about 20 minutes from the centre. It’s an easy walk which feels safe.

There is a car pack at the venue so if you are staying further away you can drive. The locals seem to prefer to park by the side of the road to avoid paying for parking.

There did appear to be bus stops on the road but I didn’t see any buses while we were walking so I am not sure how frequent they are or the route they take.

The venue

The venue is a sports centre, there is a swimming pool in the same builidng. We were there on a nice day and it was very warm inside the building although the locals did not seem to be as affected by this as we were. The basketball hall is a good size with seats on all sides of the court. A large section of the roof is glass which is nice but was adding to the heat in the venue, and there was no obvious cooling system in place.

The seats are proper seats with backs, but no padding.

The blocks are well signposted and each row tells confirms what block you are in and the seat numbers for that row so it is really easy to find your seat.

Food in the venue

You have to buy vouchers and use those to buy the food. This seems unnecessarily complicated, especially since the two counters are back to back.
The value makes it worth it though. Hot dogs are 3 euro, water is 1 euro and you can get beer or soda for 2 euro 50. It is a small beer but it is good quality small beer.

 

Antwerp Giants v Okapi Aalstar

Saturday 9 January

On the first road trip of the year, yesterday I travelled to Antwerp to watch the Giants take on Okapi Aalstar.

Looking only at the scores at the end of each period really doesn’t tell the whole story of this game. At the end of the first the teams were level on 22 and by the end of the second it was 42 for the Giants and 44 for Aalstar.

I don’t think the game felt that close in the first half. The Giants seemed to take their time to warm up in the game. Their offence seemed good to start the game but it wasn’t getting them any points and they weren’t strong enough at going for rebounds at either end of the court.

Aalstar had some poor moments as well but based on team performances I was surprised that the score was so close at half time.

Coach Roel Moors clearly said something effective at the half time break as the Giants came out much stronger, with much more energy. It was almost like watching a different team.

Aalstar hit 5 team fouls before 4 minutes had gone in the third quarter, this was surprising given that they has started the third in the lead. Fouling so much was not helping them to maintain their lead and the third period ended Giants 71 Aalstar 57.

The forth quarter started slow with both teams taking time to get new points on the board; almost 2 minutes of play passed before the first points of the quarter were scored.

It was the Giants turn to get in to foul trouble, a strange move given that they were in the lead. This didn’t affect them too much though.

A strange thing happened towards the end of the game. With 39.4 seconds on the clock the Giants called a time out. They were 21 points in the lead at this point. I have no idea what the purpose of the time out was. If anyone has any suggestions I would be interested to hear them.

Final score Antwerp Giants 93 Okapi Aalstar 70

Overall it was a strange game with periods of time where neither team played at if they wanted a win; and both teams allowing themselves to get into foul trouble at odd times.

 

Spirou Charleroi v Antwerp Giants November 7 2015

Last week I went to Charleroi to see Spirou take on the Giants.

I have to say that the venue was much quieter than I expected it to be, in terms of number of people. It was however nice and loud in terms of volume. The home fans have create a great atmosphere.

The supportes club displaying some impressive instruments.

The supporters club displaying some impressive instruments.

The Game

I am was pleased by the limited commentary and music during the game. It allowed the fans, home and away, to make a lot of noise to support the teams.

Antwerp were clear winners of q1, with a five point lead. Charleroi came back in q2 to go into the half with a 2 point lead. The lead flipped again by the end of q3 and finally switched again to end with a win from Charleroi.

It was a good game in that it was not easy to predict who would win. There were some sloppy mistakes made by both teams. It was not one of the more memorable games I have been to – there were few stand out moments. There was one buzzer beating three (to beat the shot-clock).

The Venue

The venue is easily accessible by car and there was plenty of nearby parking.

The venue was a good size and there was plenty of sign posting to help you find your section.

A range of food and drink was available. This was all at one point, which was adjacent to the entrance. This did cause some access issues. Available food included sandwiches, waffles, hot dogs, sweets and waffles. Standard soft drinks, wine and a range of Belgian beers were also available.

Spain v Lithuania

The stadium was packed for the Eurobasket final. The Lithuanian fans were clearly in attendance with large groups of them visible in several parts of the stadium. There were fewer Spain fans and I felt sorry for them as they were not able to all sit together. They were also clearly outnumbered as the French were supporting Lithuania. 
Spain started strong and although Lithuania tried to keep the pressure on them they were not able to match them in q1. Defensively, both teams were strong in q1 which was not a high scoring quarter. There were also few fouls.

Q2 was better for Lithuania as they made a massive comeback and ended q2 only 8 points behind. This was even more impressive when you consider that they only scored into double digits 2 minutes into q2.

Lithuania had more shot clock violations this evening. This seemed to be because of the strength of the Spanish defence. It is something they need to be aware of as a team, as I have seen them have problems with this is more than one game this tournament.

During the second half there were times where Lithuania started to make a comeback and it looked like the game was going to be a lot closer. Then Spain would push ahead again.

Rudy Fernandez took a terrible knock during q3 that left him on the floor for a couple of minutes. He had to be helped off the court and he could be seen receiving treatment court side before being taken off to the locker rooms. It was not a nice way for him to end the Eurobasket final.

By the end of q3 Spain had a 17 point lead and it seemed safe to start calling it their game.

During the forth Lithuania did keep the pressure on and stopped the game from getting out of hand. With about 90 seconds to go it was clear that Spain were going to win.

Some of the French fans were leaving early as the result was not going their way. This was disappointing as it was disruptive for those of us who were trying to watch the game.

Eurobasket made a big deal out of the medal ceremonies, they even had the Lithuanian president and the King of Spain present to hand out the medals.

It was nice to see Rudy Fernandez able to collect his medal as I really wasn’t sure he would be able to make it out.
  
 The Lithuanian fans were cheering their team on right to the end and the players rewarded them by going over to them at the end of the game, and after they had received their medals.
 When I left the stadium it seemed that the Lithuanian fans had decided to party anyway. There was a great atmosphere in the area outside the venue.

France v Serbia

The stadium was pretty busy for the battle for third place between France and Serbia. The crowd was fairly one sided (not surprisingly).

It was a close game during q1, both teams were strong on defence and the quarter finished with both teams on 16 points. There were several periods during q1 where neither team scored, suggesting it was gong to be a defence focused game.

France were again struggling to make use of their possessions and found themselves forcing shots with only 1 or 2 seconds left on the clock. This lead to quite a few turnovers. Equally you could explain that as Serbia being strong on defence but I noticed the same thing in France’s game against Spain.

Despite a shaky start to Q2, France were able to take a lead and keep it for the remainder of the quarter. They finished q2 ahead by 5. It was clear that Serbia were not going to accept defeat lightly and they were doing what they could to fight back.

This became the theme of the second half. There were times when it did look as though Serbia could take over. However, France maintained their composure and were able to keep a comfortable distance in points.

In the end this game was not as close as I had anticipated.

It was a good win for France though I suspect it did little to ease the hurt of the defeat to Spain.

 

Friday 18 September

A slightly delayed report of the action from Friday 18 September at Eurobasket 2015.
The day started with the classification game between Latvia and Czech Republic. This was to determine 7th and 8th slots as there are a limited number of slots available for potential qualification for the Olympics.

On paper Latvia looked like the better team and I confidently predicted that they would win.

The stadium was practically empty at the start of the game and although it did fill up a bit as the game went on there were still a considerable number of empty seats. There seemed to be only small numbers of supporters of either team present so there was little in the way of atmosphere.

In the first few minutes of the game it was pretty even between the teams but the Czech Republic quickly showed themselves to be the better team and went in to the half leading 57-36.

The third period was a slow start, the first points were scored with 8.22 left on the clock and they were the result of free throws. It wasn’t a very exciting quarter but the Czech Republic did manage to increase their lead to 36 at the end of q3.

By this point most of the fans had stopped paying attention as the result was obvious and at times it really did seem that Latvia had forgotten that the aim was to win. At one point Kiss Cam was getting more attention than the game.

With a final score of Latvia 70 Czech Republic 97, the Czech Republic secured a chance to try to qualify for the Olympics.

The main event of the evening was Serbia v Lithuania in the second semi final. The stadium was much quieter than the previous evening and there were fewer people in attendance. The Lithuanian fans did their best to keep noise levels high (I think they had 5 drums). A large group had managed to arrange to be seated together and they brought massive flags.



There seemed to be fewer Serbian fans in attendance though as they were more spread out it is hard to be certain.

They definitely tried hard to bring a good atmosphere but it did not compare to the night before. This may have been in part due to the lower attendance and the fact that for the most part there were no fans or either team around where I was sitting.

It was a very close game the whole way through, in to the last minute it was difficult to predict a winner.

Three point shots were not the strong point of either team, though Serbia did not stop trying. They made only 6 of the 28 attempted three point shots, while Lithuania made 2 of 14.

Watching the game it did feel that the fouling was uneven but the final total for the evening was 23 for Serbia and 25 for Lithuania, I am sure this is in part due to the number of fouls Serbia committed towards the end of the game as early in the game the fouls were mainly on Lithuania.

They also had a problem with shot selection that resulted in frequent shot clock violations. At several points in the game I thought that Serbia were going to do it but it just was not to be.

In the last two minutes
the tension increased as it really did seem that it could go either way, a theme of the semi finals. A foul, one that I cannot believe was planned, resulted in free throws for Lithuania and the game was over for Serbia.

Thursday 17 September

Thursday 17 September, Lille

Today’s saw Lille play host to two classification games and one of the semi final games.

I missed the first half of the first of the classification games (this game was not originally on the schedule but a change in the way FIBA will determine qualification for the Olympics added an extra game to the schedule.

The first game was Greece v Latvia. The stadium was very quiet for this game, I think this is likely to be related to the schedule change, and the fact that tip was at 1600 – a little early if you were working.

Greece were behind going in to the half time break and at the start of the third they seemed to have forgotten that they were trying to win. Then, they finally remembered. This definitely made for a more entertaining game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer for Greece in the first half, and avoided foul trouble but within 3 minutes he managed to pick up three fouls in the second half, and fouled out in the forth quarter. This is something he needs to work on, he is clearly an offensive asset for Greece but he is not much use to them if he is sitting on the bench.

The leading scorer for Latvia , Kristaps Janicenoks, scored 22 points and picked up four foul. His fouls were not as concentrated in to such a small space of time so it did not seem like such a big thing from him.

A win for Greece means that Latvia will play again on Friday against the loser of the next classification game.

The second classification game was Czech Republic v Italy. By this time the stadium was starting to fill up but it was clear that it was mainly fans for the semi-final. It did produce very little atmosphere for what should have been an exciting game.

Despite being present for the whole game very little stuck in my mind.

It was very close at the half and it did look as though it could go either way. Then during the third Czech Republic were simply outplayed and Italy took a comfortable lead.

Something I found interesting was that the Czech Republic relied heavily on one man, Jan Vesely, to score their points. He was their leading scorer with 26 points. The man with the second highest number of points was Thomas Satoransky with 12. This is something that Latvia should be looking out for, and planning for, for Friday’s game.

Italy had 4 players scoring in double figures with their lead scorer being Andrea Bargnani with 22. This contributed to them being more difficult to defend.
The final game of the day was here. The stadium had filled almost completely, with 26,922 in attendance. This seemed to be about 95% French fans. The atmosphere was amazing and the noise levels were intense. There may have been drums or other noise making equipment present but all I could hear was screaming French fans. They kept the noise levels high all game and were behind the team until the end.

It was incredible to be part of it.

A special mention has to be made of the fans. They were loud, they were passionate and they were courteous – every fan that walked past me in the seating area apologised for making me move and thanked me for doing so. A simple act but one I don’t witness everywhere so I always appreciate it when I do.

This was a close game and it was difficult to be confident in who would win, though I really did think France were going to do it. It really all came to to the last few minutes of overtime.

France were taking a long time to take shots, several times in the game they wasted a lot of time only to miss out on the shot – either because the time ran out or they forced themselves into a poor shot selection that Spain could easily defend. Had a few more of those possessions resulted in points for France it could have been a very different game.

Overall the French foul count was high and they allowed Pau Gasol to get to the line far too many times.

I did see, on Twitter, a French player complaining that the referees were favouring Gasol. I have to say that the referees made a few interesting decisions for both teams and it didn’t really feel as though they were allowing Gasol special treatment, most often it was just sloppy fouls.

France had some amazing blocks and steals and a lot of the time they simply looked more in control. They certainly had more moments that inspired awe. Or that may just be that while sat surrounded by Frenchmen and women I wasn’t allowing myself to be too impressed by Spain (it seemed the safer option).

Spain kept it close and were able to produce a few steals and dunks. They kept their energy up and by overtime they were the team picking better shots and playing better defence.

It was a thrilling game but I do feel that France have some learning to do from that game.

Spain will play in the final on Sunday and on Friday night we will learn who their opponent will be.