With the World Cup about to begin in Russia, we look at connections between Bristol Rovers Football Club and the 32 participating countries.
In some cases these connections are strong and multiple; in others they are tenuous, at best. Belgium are competing in their 13th World Cup Finals, having been semi-finalists in 1986, and are in England’s group.
Rovers Players in Belgium
Rovers’ club captain in 1992/93 Gary Waddock, now manager at Aldershot, spent 18 months with RSC Charleroi from December 1987. He scored once in 71 League games with The Gas. Signed from Rotherham United in March 1967, Bobby ‘Shadow’ Williams scored five times in 28 (+1) League games with Rovers and was with Oostende in 1971.
Diminutive winger Tony Obi was also with Oostende, joining them in 1987 after playing once for Rovers two years earlier.
Martin Paul enjoyed 11 (+11) League games with Rovers and was in Belgian football in the mid 1990s.
In addition, Rovers’ full back Johnny Hills taught at the British International School in Brussels for several years until 1969.
Two Belgian Internationals
Only two players have represented Belgium in international football and also played against Bristol Rovers and both were in the same match.
When Rovers lost 3-2 at Stamford Bridge in a League Cup tie in August 2016, Chelsea fielded Michy Batshuayi and Eden Hazard.
Batshuayi scored twice that day; born in Brussels in October 1993, he was formerly with Standard Liège and has 12 full caps to his name.
Born in La Louvière in January 1991, Hazard has won 82 caps for Belgium. Both men are in the Belgian squad for the 2018 World Cup Finals.
Born in Belgium
A number of opponents down the years have been born in Belgium, including the evidently British Billy Bryant who played for Swindon Town in the late 1920s and Darron McDonough who scored for Oldham Athletic against Rovers in February 1981.
It appears that four Belgian nationals have played against Rovers in the League. Marcel Gaillard (1927-76) played for Palace against Rovers in September 1949, Frank Moussa and Florent Cuvelier both played for Walsall against Rovers in the 2016/17 season and Funso Ojo was in the Scunthorpe United side which faced Rovers in November 2017.