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High standards for low country

Belgium's footballers have a proud tradition to maintain, on and off the field of play.

High standards for low country
High standards for low country ©Bob Thomas/Getty Images

The body recognised today as the Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football-Association / Koninklijke Belgische Voetbalbond (URBSFA-KBVB) was formed in 1895 prior to Belgium's first football championship in 1895/96. Nine years later the association became one of the seven original members of FIFA, whose first secretary and treasurer was the Belgian Louis Mühlinghaus.

The URBSFA-KBVB went from strength to strength with its national team, known as the Red Devils, winning gold at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp. That victory set the tone for a string of honours as football rapidly gained popularity around the globe. Indeed, the inaugural FIFA World Cup final of 1930 was officiated by a Belgian referee, John Langenus – an example of how highly regarded Belgium's football had become.

When UEFA was founded in 1954, the URBSFA-KBVB was again heavily involved, with Belgian José Crahay taking a key role in the new organisation. The introduction of European club competitions led to successful Belgian outfits becoming more familiar across the continent. RSC Anderlecht hold the proudest record, having reached a total of seven European finals, with European Cup Winners' Cup victories in 1975/76 and 1977/78, as well as triumphs in the 1982/83 UEFA Cup and the 1976 and 1978 UEFA Super Cups.

Winning the UEFA European Under-18 Championship in 1977 paved the way for something of a golden age for the senior Belgium team on the international stage. Following defeat by the odd goal in three at the hands of West Germany in the final of the 1980 UEFA European Championship, Belgium embarked on a terrific World Cup qualification run. When the national side took part in the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan it was their sixth consecutive appearance in the finals, a sequence stretching back to 1982.

The highlight of their unbroken World Cup streak was the 1986 campaign in Mexico, where they lost to eventual winners Argentina in the semi-finals. Belgium also have a distinguished record off the field, notably when they were awarded the FIFA Fair Play Trophy in 1992 in recognition of the URBSFA-KBVB's efforts in setting up Casa Hogar, a charity aimed at fighting the kind of poverty witnessed during that 1986 trip to central America. The association's dedication to youth football has also been manifested by the creation of a gleaming national training centre at Tubize, near Brussels.

The URBSFA-KBVB also enjoyed a notable achievement by co-hosting UEFA EURO 2000 together with the Netherlands. Four Belgian venues – Brussels, Bruges, Liege and Charleroi – were selected to host matches in what was a 16-team UEFA European Championship.

In 2014, after an absence of 12 years, Belgium reached a major final tournament again, when they qualified under coach Marc Wilmots for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The "Golden Generation", a talented group of players who had taken Belgium to the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2007, reached the quarter-finals in Brazil. The Red Devils then went on to reach the last eight at UEFA EURO 2016 in France. Under new coach Roberto Martinez, they qualified as group winners for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Women's football also enjoyed excellent progress at the same time, with the Belgian national team qualifying for its first-ever major tournament, UEFA Women's EURO 2017 in the Netherlands. They finished third in a group which also included the two eventual finalists, the Netherlands and Denmark.   


Mehdi Bayat

Mehdi Bayat
Mehdi Bayat©Photo News

Nationality: Franco-Iranian
Date of birth: 6 January 1979
Association president since: 2019

• Mehdi Bayat was elected as president of the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA/KBVB) in June 2019. Born in Teheran (Iran) in 1979, he spent his childhood and adolescence in the south of France, and studied business in Nice (ESPEME). He began his professional career in Paris before returning to the south of France, and entered Belgian football at the start of the new millennium, when he joined R. Charleroi SC, a club that plays in the Belgian First League (D1A).

• After working for the club for ten years, Mehdi Bayat became CEO in 2012. Alongside his activities with Charleroi, he has also served in various roles within the Belgian football authorities. He has been a member of the Pro League executive board (D1A et D1B, comprising Belgium’s 24 professional clubs), and he became an increasingly influential figure within the association.

• Mehdi Bayat was elected to the executive committee (a body that no long exists) in 2015, and became a member of the executive board in 2016, Since 2017, he has also served as vice-president of the technical committee that is responsible for the Belgian national team – the Red Devils. He was elected president of the Belgian FA on 22 June 2019.


General secretary

Peter Bossaert

Peter Bossaert
Peter Bossaert©KBVB/URBSFA

 Nationality: Belgian
Date of birth: 11 May 1966
Association CEO since: 2018

• Peter Bossaert began his duties as CEO of the Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB/URBSFA) on 1 September 2018. He completed his studies in business engineering at Antwerp University, and after a career with multinational Unilever, he stepped into the media sector in 1997.

• For six years, he was CEO with Medialaan, a leading Belgian media company, active in TV, radio, online content and telecommunication. Peter Bossaert is also an independent board member of stock market-listed company Lotus Bakeries NV.

• “The world of football is facing huge developments at national and international level,” he says. “It is not only with our national team, the Red Devils, that we have a beautiful product. I also have just as much interest in the role of sport for our society. It has been a long wished for dream to do something in football one day. When this train came along, I could not do anything else but to jump on it.”