So, today is game-day and I’m guessing all of you who follow me, IRF and a couple of others, will know what happened in that game as my report is on-line and will have started dissecting the result. More of that though later!
The day started pretty much as the last couple had, breakfast followed by a rest and then in to the last training session before our first game of the 2018/19 Eagles. Practice was good, very solid and again a lot of information being disseminated and a lot for the guys to take in but all necessary on what has been a very interesting and worthwhile trip.
After lunch, the best one so far for me with excellent meat balls and curried chicken kebabs, it was down time, recuperation time and game-building mentality time. For me this meant a stroll around the beautiful Lake Neufchateau and an opportunity to record another foreign land via my camera.
Amateur photography is a hobby of mine and a few years ago I obtained an excellent camera from former Sheffield Shark snapper Karl “Sumo” Southern and that has taken me to new levels. I have to say straight off that it’s all about buildings, scenery and quirky opportunities for me and the people that I get in my photos are usually there by accident.
My Mam often says, “there’s never any people in your photos.” My reply? “If you don’t know what your family looks like now, you never will!”
As I strolled around the lake I was passed by the coaching staff of Charleroi who were all out jogging. The two assistants being the power joggers as they set off up a mountain (well big hill!) path and the GM and Head Coach who stuck to the lake path.
Pleasantries were exchanged but I declined the GM’s kind invitation for me to join them. Obviously, I would have but my camera’s quite heavy and I wouldn’t have wanted my pounding feet to jar it from my grip so I decided walking was best.
As I came to the end of the lake path there were two routes in to town. I took the steepest one and after several wheezes up the road arrived at the top next to the Tourist Information Office just as a funeral passed. Was that an omen?
I walked up to the church which dominates the village and is on the site of the old castle. Dropping down back in to the village I continued snapping and was outside the Palace of Justice when, my phone pinged.
The OOTA had arrived and were loading themselves in to their hotel. Messages were exchanged and I strolled in to the main square and finished my photography for the day. Bypassing a certain Mr Wilson who was partaking of the village air and ambience.
In to the local shop to investigate the claims that they not only had white chocolate kit-kats but also white chocolate snickers. They did indeed but somehow, I managed to avoid them and cam out of the shop purchase less. Well, why destroy the good walk!
Now I’m back in the accommodation block and snacking before going to the game and I see the Stumobile pull in to the car park and I phone Les who waves as I’m on the sun terrace and then the OOTA stroll up to see the village.
If you’ve followed their adventures I’m sure you’ve seen the photos and if you haven’t, you should be following.
So, to the game. First off it was great to see The OOTA in their seats. Huge kudos to Abbie, Luke, Stu and Les for making the journey and bringing their support. The Belgians seemed a bit bemused by their presence but it was no surprise to us.
There’s a reason why they’re the best fans in The BBL and travelling all that way to watch two pre-season friendlies certainly confirms it for me!
Not going to add much to what I reported although perhaps one or two things that I didn’t include which may have been of interest. It was, despite the score line, a very competitive affair that saw several feisty moments. The refs certainly decided to let the teams play and sort things out for themselves!
I’m not saying they were bad, just different and certainly the game was not a BBL game and with the home team clearly understanding them more it didn’t help our cause against a high-quality side who were always going to be tough anyway.
They were also big, very big and very physical and killed us on the boards. They also killed us inside with the strength and I think we’re all very grateful that we will not play against three 6’ 8” American forwards with a 6’ 10 Serbian beast included too.
They did look a step quicker at times and moved the ball nicely but do they have a Jamal Williams who lit the game up with one spectacular highlight with his Hail Mary triple on the third quarter buzzer which brought the very sizeable crowd to their feet.
Mention here that this Sports Hall belongs to a Belgium 3rd tier side and wouldn’t look out of place in The BBL. It wouldn’t be the best but it would be acceptable and probably therein shows how much there is a difference between Belgium and British basketball.
Anyway, back to the game briefly and I thought our guys showed a lot of heart. A 7 – 2 start and two beautiful assists from Ahmad to Darius were great to see and it forced Charleroi in to a time-out. A small victory. Mind you the 17 – 2 run they went on in reply showed the value of a time-out!
I mentioned that it got feisty and it certainly did at times with the referees actually calling a time-out to steady the fraying tempers and cool things down. I can’t possibly say how it started or who with but I know our guys didn’t back down and faced up to some big characters showing their own really well.
But far better to have such a tough and intense game as a pre-season one than one where you blow away opposition and don’t learn a lot from it. I certainly think we learned a lot more from this one and will be the better for it.
Charleroi were very good, very well-drilled, very talented, very deep and there’s a lot of high-quality players on their roster. I think they will go on to have a very good season from what I saw and justify the budget they’ve obviously spent on such a roster.
Game over, my mad scramble to file a report with the press causing me undue stress as the internet went down for me just as I was about to send it off! The panic set-in and somehow, I thought hitting the keys harder would mean it would go through!
Never mind Coach Mac came to my rescue with his mobile hotspot and I got filed in time. For the players, corporate duties done and sandwiches eaten it was off to be to reflect on what was to come tomorrow. Crelon Okapi Aalstar.
Bound to be easier isn’t it? After all they finished a place below Charleroi in the league!