If I was the boss 1
(part 1 of 2)...
Jef Houben once said to me: "I think there must have been at least 300 fanciers in this area in my early years in the sport, you had to look really hard to find a house that did not have a loft behind it."
Although I never heard Jef telling a lie this may be a bit exaggerated, but that there were at least 150 fanciers in his little town alone I could easily believe.
When you cycle in this part of Belgium it is clear how popular the pigeon sport used to be. Everywhere you come across crumbling lofts where once pigeons used to be housed or those strange glass plates in roofs that acted as an entrance for the birds.
In my village, bar owners used to compete with each other to have a pigeon club under their roof. In my street alone there lived more fanciers than there are now in the two nearby villages put together.
And after a flight I used to hurry to my club because otherwise all the chairs would have been taken.
It still feels a bit like that in Sint Job. There the basketing room is often crowded and it can be difficult to park your car somewhere nearby. There the pigeon sport still seems to flourish but unfortunately that is just an impression. The basketing room in Sint Job used to be filled with fanciers from ONE village, now they come from all over the region. Where have all those fanciers gone, I wonder?
Then there was pooling. In those days you could earn more money with pigeons than with working.
But as with the fanciers the money disappeared as well.
And money was still very much a part of the pigeon sport in Southern Holland and Belgium.
The fact that there is now hardly any pooling in Holland at all is partly our own fault. The Germans predicted this would happen the moment clocking had to be done electronically and pooling forms were discarded.
Pooling had to be done electronically and for most fanciers that was just a little bit too difficult. The intention was good but it would have been better still if they had kept pooling forms.
The fanciers in Belgium had more sense, there the pooling forms stayed and pooling is still happening.
The pride of Holland, the National Orleans which used to be raced with 200,000 young pigeons, had to make way for the race from Blois with old pigeons and is now the only race with a combined national release.
This year I entered 3 pigeons in this race, ended 9th and 12th against 9,334 pigeons and it cost me money.
ALL races in Holland cost money these days, no matter how good you race.
When fanciers in Belgium look at the Dutch results the remark you often hear is: " If I had to race like that I would stop immediately."
The reason they say this is because of all the zeros on the pool sheet, where the Euros used to be.
Racing just for honour?
Allow me to laugh about that.
Are you being honoured when you race well?
But even so, often your name is blackened, others accuse you of having a good position or of doping, or you are excluded or trampled on in another way.
There was this new member who won two races in his first year. Everybody congratulated him and these congratulations were meant at the time.
That lasted precisely two years.
But this fancier kept on winning and the more he won the more friends he lost.
Where he was congratulated previously for winning a first prize, later people hardly looked him in the eye.
Racing for money is not possible anymore, you can forget racing for the honour, so how about racing for the championship trophies?
I have to admit that I used to do just that, but for a normal person it is too demanding to race every week and you have to leave a lot of other things for it.
Doing your utmost for a whole year to win just a trophy?
Not I, not anymore.
Having said that, long ago my first trophy had the place of honour in my sitting room. And I felt it a big achievement when I had more trophies on the shelf than my neighbour.
Now everything that looks like a trophy has been thrown out.
The throwing out began the moment I was given a bowl after winning a title.
I say bowl because I THINK it was a bowl. It could as easily have been a soup tureen, a pan, a helmet or a flowerpot.
But enormous it surely was. And hideously ugly.
And to think that I was coward enough saying after receiving the thing that I liked it and that it would have a prominent place in my house and that I was very grateful and proud to receive it.
While all the time I thought about how ugly it was and that it looked more like something made during a first pottery lesson.
I almost used it as drinking bowl for my dog but found it too cruel for the dog.
I do not know what the person thought when making it, but now it is rotting away on a municipal dump. And I am very sure that nobody will steal it from there.
In the pigeon sport you have to accommodate people as much as possible.
There was this song about the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. About birds that flew over it, sometimes to the East, sometimes to the West, without being challenged or shot down.
These birds did not know hatred, jealousy or fighting.
Are we people just too stupid to be the same?
Something to keep in mind during committee meetings.
AND THEN THIS
I know that this article sounds negative.
As if the pigeon sport is already dead and buried.
But nothing is less true. The pigeon sport can still give a lot of pleasure.
If only we had more people with vision in our committees, if we would listen more to each other and if we would see each others needs more.
Long-distance racers and speed racers, champions and non champions, committee members and club members.
(part 2 follows)
This is again a chapter from the book "the Duif Chronicles part 2". To buy this book (in English) please visit: