Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One step up the football hierarchy and more surprises: Belgium had new champion – FC Brugge.

Today the name is perhaps the best known outside its home country, but it was not so in the early 1970s – Belgium had good reputation based on the national team and two clubs, domineering the domestic league – Anderlecht (Brussels) and Standard (Liege). Anderlecht were even ranked among the top European clubs in the 1960s. By contrast, FC Brugge were pariah team – until 1973 they had won only one Belgian champioship and so long ago – in 1920 – that hardly anybody bothered to remember. It was nice to have variety and break a monopoly, yet nobody really took FC Brugge seriously in 1973 – one time wonder, most likely. ‘Everybody’ was wrong – 1973 was just a beginning. FC Brugge eclipsed both Anderlecht and Standard since then and are the best Belgian club for years. Yet, their victory took ‘experts’ unprepared:

The English did not even find a contemporary picture and used one from year of two ago, when Rensenbrink (spelled wrongly!) was still playing for FC Brugge. The champions were a bit different squad by now:

Back, left to right: Leo Canjels (coach), Roger Hermans, Johan Devrindt, Raoul Lambert, Pierre Carteus, Ruud Geels, Kurt Axelsson, Henk Houwaart, Ulrik Le Fèvre, Erwin Vandendaele, Luc Sanders.Bottom: Eddy Warrinnier (kine), Fons Bastijns, Norbert De Naeghel, Erik De Mey, Johny Nieuwenburg, Nico Rijnders, Johny Thio en Jaak de Wit (assistent-coach).Nothing to suggest greatness yet, but not anonymous team either – established Belgian national players – Van den Daele and Lambert; and plenty of foreigners, some fairly known players – Axelsson played for Sweden at the 1970 World Cup, but never a star and already over the hill; The Dane Le Fevre, acquired from Borussia Moenchengladbach; the Dutch Nico Rijnders, from the dawn of Ajax’s success. The coach Leo Canjels was also Dutch, as well as Nieuwenburg and Houwaart. And one more Dutch – Ruud Geels – who was to make a name for himself in the next few years. A mixture of small fry and players over the hill. Going by names, one would bet that FC Brugge was not going to win ever again. And that is why best is not to bet.