Royal Antwerp Football Club (commonly referred to as Royal Antwerp or simply Antwerp) is a Belgian professional football club based in the city of Antwerp. They compete in the Belgian Pro League, the top flight of Belgian football. The club was founded around 1880 as Antwerp Cricket Club by English students residing in Antwerp, 15 years before the creation of the Royal Belgian Football Association; Antwerp is regarded as the oldest club in Belgium.[2] At first there was no organised football played by its members, until 1887 when the football division was founded with its own board, named Antwerp Football Club. Being the oldest active club at the time, it was the first club to register to the Association in 1895. Consequently, when matricule numbers were introduced in 1926, the club received matricule number one.[3][4]

R. Antwerp
Full nameRoyal Antwerp Football Club
Nickname(s)The Great Old, The Reds
Founded1880; 144 years ago (1880)
OwnerPaul Gheysens [nl]
ChairmanPaul Gheysens
ManagerJonas De Roeck
LeagueBelgian Pro League
2023–24Belgian Pro League, 6th of 16
WebsiteClub website
Current season

The team has won the Belgian league title five times and the Belgian Cup four times, including a double in 2022–23. In European competitions, it reached the final of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1992–93 and qualified for the Group stage of UEFA Champions League for the first time in 2023.



Early history


Over the course of the club's history, Royal Antwerp have won five Belgian league titles as well as four Belgian Cups. In 1900, most of the players left the club for the new neighbouring club of K. Beerschot V.A.C., and this was the start of a long rivalry between both clubs.

The club is the most recent Belgian team to have reached a UEFA competition final, the 1993 European Cup Winners' Cup Final, where they lost 3–1 against Parma at Wembley Stadium.[5]

Royal Antwerp had a long-term partnership with the English club Manchester United, taking their young players on loan so that their development can be aided with first team football, and young players who require European work-permits can benefit from Belgium's more relaxed laws.[6] An example of the latter was China international Dong Fangzhuo, who was unable to play for United immediately due to work permit problems and was loaned to allow him to gain first team experience.[7]

Decline, revival and 5th national championship


Despite being one of Belgium's best-supported clubs, Antwerp had been under-achievers for several years. They hadn't won a league title between 1957 and 2023, and have spent several seasons in the second division. They were promoted to the top flight in 2000, only to be relegated in short order in 2004. They returned to the first division after 13 years in 2017, after a 5–2 aggregate win over Roeselare.[8]

After achieving promotion back to the top flight, the club appointed experienced Romanian manager László Bölöni, and demoted his predecessor Wim De Decker to assistant.[9] In his second season, 2018–19, the club qualified for the UEFA Europa League, their first European competition for the first time in 25 years. They won 3–2 in the playoff final against Charleroi, who had led 2–0 after 12 minutes.[10] Their European campaign began with a win over Viktoria Plzeň on the away goals rule in the third qualifying round, followed by a 5–2 loss to AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands in the playoff.[11]

In May 2020, Bölöni left at the end of his contract.[12] Four months later, the Great Old won their first major trophy in nearly 30 years when they upset league champions Club Brugge in the final of the Belgian Cup, with a lone goal from former Brugge player Lior Refaelov.[13] Ivan Leko, who managed the team in the cup final, led the team through the Europa League group stage in second place with four wins including one over José Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur;[14] he left for Shanghai Port at the end of 2020.[15]

Former Netherlands international Mark van Bommel was appointed manager in May 2022.[16] He brought in several compatriots, including Vincent Janssen, who scored the first goal of a 2–0 win over neighbours Mechelen in the 2023 Belgian Cup final.[17] On 4 June 2023, Antwerp won their fifth league title on the final day of the 2022–23 Belgian Pro League season. The 2–2 draw at Genk was secured in the fourth minute of added time by a screamer from Toby Alderweireld.[18]

On 30 August 2023, the club secured a spot in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time ever, following a 3–1 aggregate win over AEK Athens in the play-off round.[19]



Royal Antwerp have played their home matches at the Bosuilstadion since 1923.[20]



Royal Antwerp share a fierce rivalry with city neighbours Beerschot A.C. (now K Beerschot VA). Although in the 2000s-2010s the two clubs have met sparingly, when they do, there is usually fan violence.[21] Royal Antwerp are often seen as a culture club with a diverse, cross-class support across the city while Beerschot have either heavily working class or upper class support, locally based in South Antwerp.[22] Beerschot supporters often refer to RAFC fans as "joden" or "Jews" due to the fact that to get to Antwerp's stadium they must pass through the Jewish district, while Great Old supporters refer to Beerschot followers as "the rats".

Season Division Royal Antwerp vs K Beerschot VAC K Beerschot VAC vs Royal Antwerp
Date Venue Score Attendance Date Venue Score Attendance
1976–77 First Division 28 November 1976 Bosuilstadion 2 – 1 26 November 1977 Olympisch Stadion 2 – 0
1977–78 First Division 15 April 1978 Bosuilstadion 0 – 0 26 November 1977 Olympisch Stadion 4 – 2
1978–79 First Division 10 December 1978 Bosuilstadion 2 – 2 20 May 1979 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 3
1979–80 First Division 20 January 1980 Bosuilstadion 1 – 1 15 September 1979 Olympisch Stadion 1 – 1
1980–81 First Division 5 October 1980 Bosuilstadion 3 – 2 13 February 1981 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 1
1982–83 First Division 28 November 1982 Bosuilstadion 2 – 1 9 April 1983 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 1
1983–84 First Division 15 October 1983 Bosuilstadion 0 – 1 18 February 1984 Olympisch Stadion 1 – 4
1984–85 First Division 17 April 1985 Bosuilstadion 3 – 1 8 September 1984 Olympisch Stadion 2 – 0
1985–86 First Division 20 October 1985 Bosuilstadion 2 – 2 15 March 1986 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 0
1986–87 First Division 15 February 1987 Bosuilstadion 1 – 1 13 September 1986 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 0
1987–88 First Division 4 October 1987 Bosuilstadion 2 – 1 19 March 1988 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 2
1988–89 First Division 25 February 1989 Bosuilstadion 4 – 1 2 September 1988 Olympisch Stadion 5 – 1
1989–90 First Division 17 February 1990 Bosuilstadion 4 – 0 16 September 1989 Olympisch Stadion 1 – 1
1990–91 First Division 7 October 1990 Bosuilstadion 3 – 0 23 March 1991 Olympisch Stadion 1 – 2
Season Division Royal Antwerp vs K Beerschot VA K Beerschot VA vs Royal Antwerp
Date Venue Score Attendance Date Venue Score Attendance
2017–18 Europa League playoff 15 April 2018 Bosuilstadion 2 – 0 14,194 29 April 2018 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 0 8,600
2020–21 First Division A 25 October 2020 Bosuilstadion 3 – 2 0 7 February 2021 Olympisch Stadion 1 – 2 0
2021–22 First Division A Bosuilstadion 2 – 1 16,144 5 December 2021 Olympisch Stadion 0 – 1 11,000

RAFC also have developed a long-standing rivalry with Club Brugge.[23] They also have a local rivalry with KV Mechelen, although there is mutual respect due to a shared hatred of Beerschot.[24]

Meuse/Scheldt Cup


The best football players of Antwerp and Rotterdam contested a yearly match between 1909 and 1959 for the Meuse- and Scheldt Cup (Maas- en Schelde Beker). It was agreed to play the game at Antwerp's stadium De Bosuil in Belgium and at Sparta Rotterdam's Het Kasteel stadium in the Netherlands. The cup was provided in 1909 by P. Havenith from Antwerp and Kees van Hasselt from Rotterdam.









Current squad

As of 5 July 2024[25]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
1 GK   FRA Jean Butez
2 DF   BEL Ritchie De Laet
3 DF   BEL Björn Engels
5 DF   NED Owen Wijndal (loan from Ajax)
6 MF   BEL Eliot Matazo (loan from Monaco)
7 MF   SUR Gyrano Kerk
8 MF   NGA Alhassan Yusuf
9 FW   FRA George Ilenikhena
10 MF   BEL Michel-Ange Balikwisha
17 MF   SWE Jacob Ondrejka
18 FW   NED Vincent Janssen
19 FW   NGA Chidera Ejuke (loan from CSKA Moscow)
23 DF   BEL Toby Alderweireld (captain)
No. Pos. Nation Player
24 MF   NED Jurgen Ekkelenkamp
27 MF   BEL Mandela Keita (loan from OH Leuven)
33 DF   BEL Zeno Van Den Bosch
34 DF   BEL Jelle Bataille
44 DF   FRA Soumaïla Coulibaly (loan from Borussia Dortmund)
46 MF   BEL Milan Smits
52 DF   BEL Kobe Corbanie
55 FW   ECU Anthony Valencia
60 FW   NGA Victor Udoh
79 DF   ARG Ayrton Costa
81 GK   BEL Niels Devalckeneer
84 MF   MLI Mahamadou Doumbia
87 GK   BEL Davino Verhulst
91 GK   BEL Senne Lammens

Out on loan


Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
DF   KOS Laurit Krasniqi (at Roda JC until 30 June 2024)
MF   BEL Pierre Dwomoh (at RWDM until 30 June 2024)
No. Pos. Nation Player
MF   GER Christopher Scott (at Hannover 96 until 30 June 2024)

Technical staff

Position Name
Manager   Jonas De Roeck
Assistant manager   John Stegeman
First-team coach   Jürgen Dirkx
  Egid Kiesouw
Goalkeeping coach   Brian Vandenbussche
Fitness coach   Peter Catteeuw
Match analyst   Jerry Vanacker
Physiotherapist   Jan Vandenhouten
Technical director   Marc Overmars

Former players


Manchester United Players loan partnership


This is a list of former players acquired on-loan via Manchester United's partnership with Royal Antwerp from 1998 to 2013.

See also



  1. ^ Bosuil mag voortaan 16.144 supporters ontvangen Archived 2 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine GVA, 7 April 2018
  2. ^ "Blow for Royal Antwerp FC, Belgium's oldest football club". VRT. 14 May 2020. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  3. ^ "125 years football history". Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Wist je dat: de KBVB stamnummers uitvond?". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Parma 3, Royal Antwerp 1". AP. 12 May 1993. Archived from the original on 19 October 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Manchester United's Royal Antwerp Loanees". Five Cantonas. Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Dong joins Antwerp". BBC Sport. 4 February 2004. Archived from the original on 25 January 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  8. ^ "New life breathed into the Great Old as Royal Antwerp return to top flight". Inside World Football. 13 March 2017. Archived from the original on 21 September 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  9. ^ Delanoë, Régis (28 July 2017). "Antwerp, retour royal" [Antwerp, royal return]. So Foot (in French). Archived from the original on 8 May 2023. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  10. ^ Berger, Maxime; Bayet, Grégory (27 May 2019). "L'Antwerp retrouve la scène européenne, une première depuis 1994-1995" [Antwerp return to the European scene, for the first time since 1994-1995]. RTBF. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  11. ^ "Officieel: Antwerp stunt en haalt 60-voudig Rode Duivel Kevin Mirallas terug naar België" [Official: Antwerp stun and bring back 60-time Red Devil Kevin Mirallas to Belgium]. Het Nieuwsblad (in Dutch). 30 August 2019. Archived from the original on 8 May 2023. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  12. ^ "Belgique : Laszlo Bölöni quitte le Royal Antwerp". L'Équipe (in French). 14 May 2020. Archived from the original on 8 May 2023. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  13. ^ "Antwerp wins Belgian Cup as soccer resumes in Belgium". The Washington Post. 1 August 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Ivan Leko believes Tottenham won't underestimate Royal Antwerp a second time". Express & Star. 9 December 2020. Archived from the original on 8 May 2023. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  15. ^ "Rangers handed Europa League boost as Royal Antwerp lose their manager to Shanghai SIPG". Glasgow Times. 29 December 2020. Archived from the original on 8 May 2023. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  16. ^ "Mark van Bommel nommé entraîneur d'Antwerp" [Mark van Bommel named manager of Antwerp]. L'Équipe (in French). 26 May 2022. Archived from the original on 12 April 2023. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  17. ^ Jongmans, Robin (30 April 2023). "Prijs voor Van Bommel in België: trainer wint beker met Nederlands getint Antwerp" [Prize for Van Bommel in Belgium: manager wins cup with Dutch-tinged Antwerp]. De Telegraaf (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 30 April 2023. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  18. ^ "ANTWERP KAMPIOEN! Alderweireld schiet Great Old naar titel na waanzinnige rollercoaster" [ANTWERP CHAMPIONS! Alderweireld delivers championship for Great Old after insane rollercoaster]. Sporza. 4 June 2023. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  19. ^ "Antwerp make history after qualifying for Champions League group stages for first time". Brussels Times. 31 August 2023. Retrieved 31 August 2023.
  20. ^ "Stadiums & Pitches". Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  21. ^ "Politie 24/7: unieke blik achter de schermen van een gespannen Antwerpse derby". VRT. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  22. ^ "De derby der derby's: "Beerschot was voor het chique volk, Antwerp voor de arbeiders"". De Morgen. Archived from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  23. ^ "De rivaliteit tussen Club Brugge en Antwerp is enorm: wij gingen op zoek naar de oorzaak van die vete en kwamen in 1908 terecht". Nieuwsblad. Archived from the original on 22 April 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Malinwa vs. Great Old, de 'Antwerpse derby der gelijkgezinden'". Gazet van Antwerpen. Archived from the original on 13 August 2020. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Eerste ploeg" [First team] (in Dutch). Royal Antwerp F.C. 22 July 2022. Archived from the original on 21 September 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.