Not many people outside Belgium may have known the club who knocked out Union Berlin in the Round of 16 in the Europa League. After a 3-3 draw in Berlin, Saint-Gilloise won the second leg in Belgium 3-0. Both clubs met in the group stage. Union Berlin lost 1-0 at home and won by the same margin in Belgium. Saint-Gilloise won the group ahead of Union Berlin plus Sporting Braga (Portugal) and Malmö FF (Sweden).
Union Saint-Gilloise is based in the capital Brussels in the districts of Saint-Gilles/Saint Gillis and Forest/Vorst. Over the course of its history of over 100 years, the club has been as far down as the fourth division. Saint-Gilloise have only been playing at the top of Belgian football again for a few years. They were promoted to the top-flight in 2020/21 after a gap of over 50 years – and only just missed out on winning the league title in their first season. Saint-Gilloise finished top of the table with 77 points. However, because the top four teams in the Jupiter Pro League play-off for the championship, Club Brugge ended up winning the title.
The rise of Saint-Gilloise from the lower levels of Belgian football is closely linked to investment from two millionaires. The German businessman Jürgen Baatzsch joined the club as president in 2015. Three years later, the English businessman Tony Bloom took over the majority stake of the German. Bloom is also a shareholder and board member of the Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion.
On the pitch, a former player at SV Meppen played a big part in the rapid rise of USG. Deniz Undav made a major contribution to winning the second division with 17 goals in the 2020/21 season and he scored 25 goals in their first season in the Jupiter Pro League. Since the summer of 2022, the striker from Achen near Bremen has been playing for Brighton & Hove Albion. And the successful coach Felipe Mazzu, who won promotion with the club and took them up to the runners-up spot, left USG in 2022 for local rivals RSC Anderlecht. Since the summer of last year, Karel Geraerts has been the head coach at Union Saint-Gilloise.
USG are playing in Europe for the first time in their history. Their group games in the Europa League were played at the King Power at Den Dreef Stadium in Leuven. The home ground of the club, the Stade Joseph Marien, does not comply with requirements set by UEFA. The second leg of the Round of 16 game against Union Berlin was played at the Lotto Park in Brussels, the stadium where Anderlecht play their home games.
The current squad at Union Saint-Gilloise has players from 14 different countries including the German striker Dennis Eckert Ayensa, who joined the Belgian club in the summer of 2022 from FC Ingolstadt.
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