American Football in Belgium: A Short Overview

This past weekend the long awaited American football season started in Belgium. Sixteen teams are competing for the title of Belgian Champion and taking on the current national champion, the Ghent Gators. In combination with the friendly between the Belgian Barbarians (Belgian National team) and the Kuwait Gridiron Football National Team this seems to be a great moment to look at American Football in Belgium.

old belgium

A Short History

American Football in Belgium starts in 1984 with the founding of WaPi Phoenix. In 1986, the second Belgian team, the Leuven Lions, came to life. Starting in 1987, Belgian teams began meeting in a national championship game. As the years went by the number of players began to grow and in 1989 the league doubled in size with the founding of the Antwerp Diamonds, Brussel Black Angels and Izegem Tribes. In 1995 the Belgian National Championship Game was baptized the Belgian Bowl and the BFL was born!

The Current Situation

Belgium - FAFL logo2Right now the Belgian Football League is divided in to two conferences: the Flemish American Football League (FAFL) and the Ligue Francophone de Football Americain de Belgique (LFFAB).

The conferences are separated because of language; the FAFL are the Dutch speaking teams and the LFFAB the French speaking teams.

The FAFL contains all the teams in the region of Flanders and one of the teams from Brussels. The teams are: Antwerp Diamonds, Brussel Black Angels, Ghent Gators, Izegem Tribes, Leuven Lions, Limburg Shotguns, Ostend Pirates and Puurs Titans.

The LFFAB contains all the teams from Wallonia and one team from Brussels being the: Andenne Bears, Brussels Tigers, Charleroi Coal Miners, Louvain-La-Neuve Fighting Turtles, Tournai WaPi Phoenix, , Liège Monarchs, Braine-Le-Comte Sharks and Waterloo Warriors.

LFFABAfter a regular season in which everybody plays every team from its own conference, the best three teams advance to the playoffs.

The conference champions get a bye week while the 2nd team of the FAFL plays the 3rd team of the LFFAB and likewise for the 2nd team of the LFFAB and the 3rd team for the FAFL. The winners of those ‘wildcard games’ face the conference champions in a Playoff Weekend.

The two victorious teams meet each other in the prestigious Belgian Bowl, the winners of that game can crown themselves Belgian National Champions and get to compete in the  GFLI Atlantic Cup against other European National Champions.

Although progress is slow and at times has setbacks American Football in Belgium has been growing for the last 30 years. The amount of spectators, NFL enthusiasts, players, coaches and officials is increasing and this magnificent sport is slowly becoming an important part of many Belgian lives.

Luther Rommens is a young American Football player from Antwerp, Belgium and a regular contributor to AFI.