Hosts of perhaps the biggest party in the history of Belgian football, Gent will hope that Tottenham Hotspur will have a harder time than Real Madrid when they come to Belgium in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. UEFA.com discovers what makes them special.
Nicknames: De Buffalos (The Buffalos)
UEFA club competition honours
Domestic honours (most recent triumph in brackets)
• League title: 1 (2015)
• Belgian Cup: 3 (2010)
• Belgian Super Cup 1 (2015)
• Ghent was the cradle of Belgian football. According to the commonly-accepted legend, schoolboy Cyrill Bernard Morrogh brought the first proper leather football to Belgium when he took one back to his boarding school in Melle, on the outskirts of Ghent, from his holidays in his native Ireland. It was there, at the College van de paters Jozefieten, that Belgium’s first games of football were played.
• Gent started out as black-and-whites. The club was founded on 31 October 1900 as part of the Association Athlétique La Gantoise – a sports association which dates back to 1864 – and wore the traditional colours of the city until August 1902, when they switched to their parent association’s favoured blue-and-white.
• Buffalo Bill is the source of their nickname. The American hunter and showman transported his Wild West review to Ghent in 1895, with local students taking up the “Buffalo, Buffalo” chant when they followed their football team. The nickname was first used officially in the club’s magazine in 1921.
• There was a bit of a mix-up over the club badge. While their nickname celebrated Buffalo Bill, a native American appears on the Gent crest, the Sioux chiefs having made more of a visual impact than Commander Cody during their time in Belgium. The image nonetheless encapsulates the club’s core values: respect, bravery and honour.
• Real Madrid scored nine at the old Jules Ottendstadion. As Gent progressed to the top Belgian league in the 1950s, they staged some fine exhibition games. In 1957, visiting European champions Madrid beat them 9-0, but dignity was restored on 30 May 1959 when – in front of a sell-out crowd of 25,000 – the Buffalos defeated a Santos side featuring an 18-year-old Pélé 2-1, the youngster scoring the Brazilian team’s equaliser.
• They won their first trophy in some style. Gent were 2-0 down in the 1964 Belgian Cup final when they finally got their skates on. Eric Lambert scored a hat-trick as Gent turned things around, eventually prevailing 4-2 after extra time. It was the first of their three Belgian Cup successes, leaving them fifth in the competition’s all-time rankings.
• Top scorer in the league in 1957 with 35 goals, Maurice Willems remains their all-time top marksman on 185, though future Buffalos Ronny Martens (1985), Erwin Vandenbergh (1991) and Ole Martin Årst (2000) were all domestic golden boot winners. However, the player chosen as the Buffalo of the Century in 2000 was goalkeeper Armand Seghers, who made 507 Gent appearances between 1949 and 1966.
• Gent had some tough middle years. Relegated to the third division in 1974, they were practically bankrupt when local businessman Ivan De Witte came on the scene in the late 1990s. Under his chairmanship, the club cleaned up their act on the field and moved to their stylish new home, the 20,000-seater KAA Gent Stadium.
• They hosted what may have been the biggest footballing party in Belgian history. When Hein Vanhaezebrouck led Gent to their first league title in May 2015, an estimated 125,000 fans descended on the city centre to celebrate. The following season, Gent became the first Belgian team in 15 years to progress to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage.
• Gent were eliminated at the first hurdle in their first four UEFA competition campaigns, breaking that duck by reaching the third round of the 1986/87 UEFA Cup. The closest they have come to winning a European competition was when they qualified for the last eight of the 1991/92 UEFA Cup, where they were beaten by eventual winners Ajax. This current campaign is set to be their longest yet – ten games and counting.