Belgium is not the type of country where you’re likely to see flags floating in the air during national holidays. In fact, if you only know Brussels, you’d have probably noticed that EU insignia greatly outnumber Belgian symbols in the country’s capital. Yet every four years everything changes, as different communities put aside their differences and swell up with pride for their national football team.
“Belgian identity is very feeble, and complex” argues Professor Jean Michel de Waele, who teaches political science at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). “One cannot simply say that Belgium is a divided country, because we do have a specific world view. But normally the north and the south live in different realities”.
The small country at the heart of Europe is separated into three federative states, one French-speaking, one Flemish-speaking and the third bilingual. It is also home to hundreds of thousands of citizens with a migration background, who came mostly after the end of the second World War, seeking employment.
Prof. de Weale researched how Red Devils help the nation imagine itself. He explains that: “during the World Cup, we live through emotions together. We are very united, and that surprises us.”
The big match