7 Reasons to Mildly Dislike Belgium Ahead of the U.S. World Cup Match

Get all your jeers ready.

Belgium soccer fans in Brazil react as their team misses a scoring opportunity during a match against Russia on June 22.
National Journal
Marina Koren and Matt Vasilogambros
June 30, 2014, 1 a.m.

For soc­cer fans, the World Cup is a time of strong emo­tions and hy­per­na­tion­al­ism. For some Amer­ic­ans, it’s a time to drunk­enly yell mis­guided ste­reo­types at a TV screen.

The first three teams the U.S. faced in the 2014 tour­na­ment were re­l­at­ively easy to verbally evis­cer­ate. Ghana knocked out the team in the last two tour­na­ments. Por­tugal has Cris­ti­ano Ron­aldo. And Ger­many””well, you re­mem­ber World Wars I and II.

But this week, the U.S. plays an un­fa­mil­i­ar foe: Bel­gi­um. So, what’s there to dis­like about Bel­gi­um, de­liver­er of beer, waffles, and chocol­ate? Bel­gi­um ac­tu­ally has a lot of good things go­ing for it, which makes it easi­er for U.S. fans to be ir­ra­tion­ally jeal­ous of the coun­try””and use that jeal­ousy to root against its soc­cer team. Here, two hate­ful mem­bers of the Na­tion­al Journ­al staff have com­piled a brief list of those things, just in time for Tues­day’s match at 4 p.m.

In no par­tic­u­lar or­der, here’s why you should root against the Bel­gians:

  1. They out­pace us in an­nu­al per cap­ita con­sump­tion of chocol­ates, 15 pounds to 11 pounds. They also gave us Go­diva. Chocol­ate is pretty much their thing.
  2. They do gov­ern­ment shut­downs bet­ter than we do. While they had no gov­ern­ment for 20 months, the coun­try was still able to keep its gov­ern­ment pro­grams and so­cial ser­vices run­ning. Show-offs.
  3. They also live longer than we do. Life ex­pect­ancy is 83 years for Bel­gian wo­men and 78 for men. In the U.S., it’s 81 years for wo­men and 76 for men. So close.
  4. Their na­tion­al fin­ances are in pretty good shape. At the start of this year, Bel­gi­um’s eco­nomy grew at the fast­est rate in al­most three years, a sig­nal that the euro is slowly trav­el­ing down the road to re­cov­ery.
  5. They have Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was born in Brus­sels and can do this.
  6. They cre­ated world maps as we know them today. In 1569, Ger­ar­dus Mer­cat­or drew up a pro­jec­tion of the globe to help sail­ors nav­ig­ate the seas. It was not com­pletely ac­cur­ate however, and many na­tions look lar­ger than they ac­tu­ally are. Still, that hasn’t stopped every­one from us­ing it.
  7. Two ma­jor Bel­gian cit­ies have pro­foundly weird statues. The sym­bol of Brus­sels, the na­tion’s cap­it­al, is a 22-inch statue of a little boy ur­in­at­ing, called Man­nek­en Pis. As le­gend says, “The en­emy was at the gates ready to bring down the city walls with gun­powder. For­tu­nately, a little boy who happened to be around des­per­ately needed to re­lieve him­self and in do­ing so he ex­tin­guished the fuse.” In An­t­werp, there’s a statue of a man throw­ing a dis­membered hand. An­t­werp means “hand-cast,” named after the le­gend of a Ro­man sol­dier throw­ing a gi­ant’s hand in­to the river. There’s ac­tu­ally noth­ing to really hate here or be too jeal­ous of. Just weird.

For more fod­der, U.S. fans can also turn to Monty Py­thon, which tried to tackle the is­sue of pre­ju­dice against Bel­gi­um in a skit. Oth­er than the first op­tion of, “Let’s not call them any­thing, let’s just ig­nore them,” the show came up with three derog­at­ory names for Bel­gians: “The Sprouts,” “The Phlegms,” and “Miser­able, Fat Bel­gian Bas­tards.”

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