Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin — it is quite rare that such top-class talent emerges from a small region at the same time, as the two extraordinary racquet wielders did out of Belgium at the beginning of the 20th century.But often in the case of compatriots and contemporaries going for the same prizes, the rivalry gets an added edge. The two Belgian girls won 11 Grand Slam singles titles between them, but while Clijsters enjoyed a narrow 13-12 head-to-head advantage, it was Henin who came out on top in their three meetings in Grand Slam finals.What added to the intrigue in their rivalry and a slightly different fan following back home was that the players hailed from different backgrounds from the same country — Clijsters was born in Belgium’s Flemish region while Henin hails from Leige, part of the country’s French-speaking Wallonia region.
But a football team is supposed to be a group of individuals with a common identity, all pulling in the same direction. That has not always been the case with Belgium which, apart from its Flemish and French regions, also has a tiny German-speaking territory. It may be a country smaller in area than Kerala, with a population less than that of Jammu and Kashmir, but Belgium is anything but homogenous.It is a country that went a record 541 days without a government after the national elections of 2007, due to the divide between the Francophone Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemish, and whose royalty has as one of its primary tasks ensuring greater unity between the two groups, which trace their dichotomy to the fifth century.