It was quite fitting that Roma were drawn with AA Gent in the Europa League. After all, the club from the Belgian city of Ghent is known as the Buffalo’s. Since 1924 the fans used an Indian chief as emblem of the club. Buffalo Ben is the mascot of the club since 2001. And you know Indians and wolves have a special bond. Time for a history lesson.
Just like Roma, it seems that Americans are quite a bit involved in the history of AA Gent. While the club AS Roma only welcomed Americans in 2011, AA Gent goes way back into the past.
When the American William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody came to Ghent with his circus in 1895 and 1906, the people shouted ‘Buffalo Buffalo!’ during the shows. Some members of his circus gang were dressed as Sioux. A lot of students in Ghent (it’s one of the biggest student cities in Belgium) started to use the name Buffalo in their meetings, parties and night life. It started to become a household name in and around Ghent.
After the Olympics in 1920 (held in Antwerp), most people referred to the club AA Gent as the Buffalos and they also used a Native American on the official flags. So it looked like the American Buffalo Bill left quite an impression with his circus.
That’s not the only link between AA Gent and America. Fun fact: There are more than 20 cities in the US named Buffalo. And I heard Buffalo Wings are quite popular there as well. And don’t get me started on how many sports teams in the US use the nickname Buffalo in their names.
Anyway, back to 2019/2020/whatever time zone you are in right now. While AA Gent may look like a ‘small club’ to most Giallorossi on first sight, both trophy cabinets aren’t THAT much different. Roma has 3 titles, Ghent 1 (2015). Roma has 9 cups, Ghent 3. Supercups: Roma 2, Ghent 1. To put it in another way: Roma’s status is closer to Ghent than say Juve, Barcelona or Bayern.
In fact, AA Gent can be seen as an ‘AS Roma lite’ of the Belgian league. They don’t have the biggest palmares because there are at least 3 teams with more prizes: Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard. All of them have a bigger wallet and more money to spend, too. Ghent rarely win a trophy but they desperately want to hang out with the big boys.
They have a proud and faithful fanbase, although they sell their best players from time to time. Also, I have visited both Rome and Ghent and they really are two fun cities to hang out.
However, there is one huge difference. One that hurts.
Roma has the ancient grounds of the Stadio Olimpico, built in 1928. AA Gent plays in the newly built Ghelamco Stadium since 2013. It really is a beautiful, futuristic stadium, just look up some pictures online. It’s by far the most modern football temple in Belgium. So, before we start to laugh at AA Gent, just remember: at least they managed to plant a modernized, state-of-the-art stadium not far from the city centre.
A more detailed look at the squad, trainer and tactics of AA Gent will follow soon, including a flashback to the memorable 1-7 victory in Ghent back in 2009.
Also, yours truly will do everything he can to grab a ticket for the return match in Belgium on February 27. After all, it’s only a 30 minute drive from my place. I just hope there will be enough wolves around for the clash with the Indians.
See you in Ghent?