KAS Eupen have left for their training camp in Doha. On the premises of the Aspire Academy the coaching team will prepare the players for the final matches of the Pro League championship 2018-2019. For the time being, fighting relegation is still an issue, but with a good first half of the season, the team has laid the foundation for its continued membership in the top division. Before the last part of the season starts again, here is a review of 2018. For KAS Eupen it was a football year full of excitement and emotion, with great successes but also some setbacks. But find out for yourself in this ten point retrospective.
Premiere: Moussa Wague first KAS Eupen World Cup player
Great premiere in the 2018 football summer: Moussa Wague is the first KAS Eupen player ever to be nominated for the World Cup, in Russia. The 19-year-old right-back, who was trained at the Aspire Academy Senegal, is appointed to the World Cup selection by Senegalese national coach Alio Cissé and will play the three group matches of his national team in Russia. But that is not all: against Japan, Moussa Wague scores and gives Senegal a 2-1 lead, making him the youngest African scorer in the history of the World Cup. Shortly after the World Cup, Moussa Wague moved from KAS Eupen to FC Barcelona. Following an injury break, he has been in the starting eleven of the B team since November and was promoted to the A squad of FC Barcelona at the end of the year.
Class retention: Beating Mouscron 4:0 in the game of the year
11 March 2018 has gone down in the history of KAS Eupen. With unrestrained willpower, three goals from Yuta Toyokawa and a grandiose 4-0 victory over Excel Mouscron, Claude Makelele’s team was able to maintain their seat in first division in the very final minutes of the 2017-2018 season. For the third time in a row the club will compete in the highest league in the history of KAS Eupen. 4424 fans supported KAS in the game of the year and pushed it forward. No one in attendance back then will ever forget this game.
Interim results 2018-2019: Victories against top clubs and relegation competitors
With 25 points from 21 matches in D1 so far, KAS Eupen is currently completing by far the most successful season in the club’s history and hibernating on 10th place. KAS Eupen celebrated eight victories, winning in their own stadium against cup winner Standard Liege (2-1) and national record champion Anderlecht (2-1) as well as against KV Kortrijk (3-1). The remaining points were earned by KAS Eupen – and this is a new quality of the team – against direct competitors in the fight for class retention: 6 points each against Cercle Bruges and Excel Mouscron, as well as 4 points against Waasland.
The captain stays on board: Luis Garcia renews his contract
Luis Garcia pulls the strings in the KAS Eupen gameplay. Setting the accents with his passes and goals, he pulls his fellow players along with his fighting spirit. The Spaniard is simply untiring and still in top form at the age of 37. After another strong 2017-2018 season, Luis Garcia earned his UEFA coach’s diploma in Spain. In mid-May, the relieving news breaks for all KAS fans: The captain remains on board, Luis Garcia having extended his contract with KAS Eupen for another year. The Belgian sports press is also delighted: “Without Luis Garcia, the Pro League would lack an important player personality,” read the headlines. Luis Garcia proved again how important he is for the KAS Eupen team with his performance in the first half of the new season. The captain did not miss a single minute in 21 matches of the Pro League, gave 3 assists and is the most successful KAS Eupen scorer this season with 7 goals so far.
Setbacks: Football Gate, the start of the season and the cup elimination
KAS Eupen also suffered some setbacks in the overall successful football year 2018. These include the events in the final phase of the 2017-2018 championship, which were given an almost unimaginable explosive force by the revelations of the judiciary regarding the football scandal ‘Foot Gate’ and which were apparently not only intended to destabilize KAS Eupen on the pitch. Among the sporting setbacks rank the start of the season in August 2018 and the cup elimination on 19 December against KV Oostende. KAS Eupen started the season with four defeats in a row, the 0-1 in the quarter-finals of the national cup marking the end of a competition that is more open than ever and in which KAS Eupen could have had a say. Nonetheless, these setbacks have one thing in common: both the team and the club were not left downbeat, but stayed focused and found their way back to the track of success with a ‘now more than ever mentality’.
12 national players in the KAS Eupen squad
A total of 12 players from the KAS Eupen squad were appointed to the national teams of their home countries in 2018. Moussa Wague left KAS Eupen this summer as Senegal’s national player and the first World Cup participant in club history. Morteza Pouraliganji joined KAS Eupen as a 2018 World Cup participant and, with 31 nominations so far, is one of the regulars of the Iranian national team, which is currently competing in the Asian Championship in the United Arab Emirates.
Defensive midfielder Sulayman Marreh has played 13 internationals for Gambia to date and was most recently in the African Cup in September. KAS striker Yvan Yagan played three international matches for Armenia in 2018. Cheick Keita has been called into the line-up by Mali’s national coach to play against Gabon.
KAS defender Rocky Bushiri celebrated his premiere with the Belgian U21 national team at the test matches against Italy and Romania. Carlos Martinez played five international matches with Costa Rica’s U-20 side at the CONCACAF tournament in November.
With the Qatari national team, KAS Eupen U21 players Abdollah Ali Saei, Abdulrasheed Umarou Ibrahim, Youssef Aymam Farahat and Homam Elamin Ahmed reached the semi-finals of the U19 Asian Championship and qualified for the U20 World Cup in Poland. With 7 goals, KAS striker Abdulrasheed Umarou Ibrahim was the tournament’s top scorer.
The two KAS Eupen goalkeepers Abdul Manaf Nurudeen and Babacar Niasse were appointed to the U20 teams of Ghana and Senegal respectively in 2018.
KAS fans: attendance of 3300 on average
In the 2017-2018 season excluding play off matches, the average number of spectators at the Kehrweg Stadium was 3353. A total attendance of 4424 experienced the deciding match against Excel Mouscron live in the stadium.
The average for the first half of the new season is 3246. Most of the spectators attended the KAS Eupen home games against Standard Liege (5522), RSC Anderlecht (5082), Sint-Truiden (3672) and KRC Genk (3412) braving the cold and the rainfall on the 4th of Advent.
Even though the Kehrweg Stadium is by far not sold out, and there is still certainly room for improvement, the public response to KAS Eupen in a city with only 18,000 inhabitants is remarkable. For that: Thank you fans!
Goal scorers: Yuta Toyokawa (11) preceding Luis Garcia (10)
The best KAS Eupen goal scorers in the football year 2018 were Yuta Toyokawa and Luis Garcia. Yuta Toyokawa’s had a breakthrough in the deciding match against Excel Mouscron, where he scored his first 3 goals in the KAS Eupen jersey, coming onto the pitch as a substitute and playing a pivotal role in the fight for class retention.
Just like Luis Garcia, who delivered two assists in this game and scored once himself. Yuta Toyokawa scored a total of eleven goals in 2018. Luis Garcia scored 3 goals at the end of last season and a total of seven in the 2018-2019 Pro League games so far.
Strong defense: 6 clean sheets before winter break
For a long time, conceding many goals was the major problem of KAS Eupen. Since he took office in November 2017, coach Claude Makelele has put his main focus on the defensive behavior of the entire team. Step by step the team was able to improve on this point. The best proof is six games without conceding a goal since the start of the 2018-2019 season. In the away games in Mouscron (0-1), Waasland (0-0) and Cercle Bruges (0-1) KAS keeper Hendrik Van Crombrugge kept a clean sheet. The home games against Cercle Bruges (2-0), Waasland (1-0) and Mouscron (1-0) also ended without any goals of the opponent.
Contact person in great demand: Claude Makelele at ‘La Tribune’
In 2018, the KAS Eupen coach was a sought-after contact person for the media. The French sports newspaper L’Equipe and the Belgian sports press interviewed Claude Makelele and reported in detail. In December, Claude Makelele was a guest on the RTBF TV broadcast ‘La Tribune’ and chatted with the experts about his career as a player of the French national team and his work as KAS Eupen coach.