Emotional goodbye to Cercle goalkeeper Miguel Van Damme: ‘No one will ever wear number 16 again’ | Foreign football

VideoIn and around the Sint-Blasiuskerk in Jabbeke, fans and colleagues gathered for the funeral of Cercle Brugge goalkeeper Miguel Van Damme (28), who died of leukemia this week. A large screen was erected outside the church, where an estimated 1,500 people watched the ceremony. It was quiet there when the words of relatives rang out. ,,I will always keep your last text message: ‘Good night, Mom. I love you’.”

Mathias Marien

Latest update:
02-04-22, 21:04

Miguel Van Damme’s struggle has moved far beyond the sports world in recent years. In addition to big names from the football world, a lot of ‘ordinary’ supporters and sympathizers have come together in Jabbeke. In order to let them say goodbye in peace, the municipality of Jabbeke had the streets in the vicinity of the Sint-Blasiuskerk closed.

In the church itself, which was quickly packed, Van Damme’s teammates at Cercle Brugge were also present. Vincent Mannaert from Club Brugge and Peter Verbeke from Anderlecht were also present, as was the Flemish minister Ben Weyts. “A tribute to a top athlete, on and off the field”, the latter responded briefly. An example for young people. Miguel was a real top athlete.”

© Mathias Mariën

The farewell to the top athlete was started by Phil Collins, with ‘You’ll be in my heart’, followed by Frank Vanderlinden of De Mens, with the words ‘It’s not so bad’. Outside the first tears flowed.

“We find it so difficult to understand, let alone accept, his death,” said the priest. “But we are grateful for the beautiful moments.” But it is the words of wife Kyana, who brought daughter Camille with her, that went through the marrow.

“I don’t know where to start,” Kyana said. ,,We got to know each other in 2014. It immediately became clear that you had a heart of gold. As time went on, it only got more beautiful. Everything was right. We complemented each other like no one else did. After a year we decided to rent an apartment in Oostkamp. We bought a house a year later. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay on our pink cloud. A very black cloud came. On June 22, 2016, the verdict came: cancer, leukemia.”

Wife Kyana.
Wife Kyana. © Benny Proot

“We gathered all our courage and fought together for six years. In 2018 we became husband and wife. Again we had to deal with some setbacks. But on May 21, 2021, our dream became reality: we became proud mom and dad of Camille. You fought for so long, but you ran out. I’m super proud of how we got through it all. I could only support you. I promise to take good care of Camille. Rest in peace now, baby. I like to see you.”

Miguel’s aunt also read a letter on behalf of his mother. Our parties will never be the same again. Bowling, golfing by the sea,… You were always the winner. You were always optimistic, a special boy to me. You left a serious impression on everyone. No more text messages from now on. How I will miss that. I’ll always keep your last text message: ‘Good night, Mom. I love you’. Why? But why? I love you. Kiss, mom.”

Cercle supporters.
Cercle supporters. © Mathias Mariën

Long live Miguel

Eric Goens, who made the documentary ‘Miguel’, recalled that period. “Sometimes I didn’t dare ask what it was like. Then I’d say, ‘It’s not really going well with Cercle? And then there were a few snickers to and fro. Football humor…”

,,I know that they like to close at the association with ‘Long Live Cercle’”, concluded Goens. ,,I would like to close with ‘Long live Miguel’. Because if we all enjoyed life half as much, we would have enjoyed even less than Miguel.”

This was followed by another very emotional moment when some images from Goens’ documentary were shown.

The Cercle Brugge players' team in the church.
The Cercle Brugge players’ team in the church. © Mathias Mariën

“You were a jerk, always positive”, Charles Vanhoutte of Cercle described his teammate in tears. ,,And as a player one you would rather have in your team than with your opponent. Which smiley… It always makes me happy when I think about it. You took me under your wing right away when I came into the squad as a youngster. No one will ever be allowed to wear your number 16 again.”

Kristof D'Haene, captain of KV Kortrijk, arrives.
Kristof D’Haene, captain of KV Kortrijk, arrives. © Mathias Mariën

Bosom friend Thibaut Van Acker spoke about Miguel’s world match against Antwerp. And about his bachelor party. “I will cherish all of our memories. I now read this letter, which I wrote with a smile and a tear. I promise I’ll be there for Kyana, Camille and your family, brother.”

To the tones of ‘Papa’ by Stef Bos, the more than a thousand people gathered outside to say their last greetings. On the coffin itself, mourners could write a final message. It was then carried out to loud applause.

To the tones of 'Papa' by Stef Bos, people line up to pay Van Damme one last farewell.
To the tones of ‘Papa’ by Stef Bos, people line up to pay Van Damme one last farewell. © Mathias Mariën

Miguel's prayer card.
Miguel’s prayer card. © Mathias Mariën