Saturday, June 11, 2011

RWD Molenbeek were champions, 9 points ahead of the 2nd placed Antwerpen. The historian’s nightmare was triumphal in 1975.
Nighmare? Looks innocently happy celebration: the boys make their victory run; the crowds cheer. The crowds?
Complicated logo, isn’t it? That is why the question who were the crowds of fans is valid. Technically, RWD Molenbeek was the second –hence, smaller – club of Brussels. It was also new – 1973 is given as its birtdate, which begs the question how come they were in the First Division already. There is an answer, but after a minute: first things first. Did they represent Brussels? Yes and no – they belonged to the suburb Molenbeek, hence, a city club and not a city club. Fans were coming from the area – a rivalry with ‘central’ club is always attractive to the ‘periphery’. Well, why not simply FC Molenbeek then? And now to the nightmare: RWD Molenbeek was result of merger on top of merger. At the dawn of 20th century there were Racing, White Star, and Daring in Brussels. One good day Racing and White Star merged into RW Molenbeek. Meantime Daring was winning titles. By 1973 titles were ancient memories for Daring as probably money too. New merger occurred and RWD Molenbeek appeared on the scene, with birthdate 1973. The birth was difficult one… Belgian rules may not very clear, but are thoroughly practiced: the ‘matriculation’ (that’s the Belgian term) allowed the new club to stay in First Division, because RW Molenbeek was already there. It also allowed the new club to keep the historic record of… unclear! Something like a combination of the early records of Racing and White Star, reasoned by the number of original registration of White Star, which is 47. The new club was not allowed to keep the record of Daring, although Daring had number 2 (that is, the second club registered in the whole history of Belgian football! Those guys were old…) – if there is any helpful fact, it may be preservation of place in First Division – looks like taking the record of Daring was to drop them down to Second Division, where Daring was playing before the merger. Confusing? Right! It will be more confusing in the future, for RWD Molenbeek, on verge of bankruptcy in 21st century became FC Brussels. Unhappy fans decided to restore the ‘original’ club – and they did, although because of bankruptcy and rules of ‘matriculation’, the restored club has to use slightly different name for few years and, as a new club (by registration number), had to start from the lowest possible level – 8th Division. There they are today, enjoying massive crowds of 20 people… perhaps exactly those, who personally restored the club. Who takes what part of history and records of the old clubs I don’t know and don’t even dare to try learning.
And here they are – champions after 2 years of existence! Or more years of existence, or who knows… for it is officially the first (and last) title of RWD Molenbeek.
Standing, left to right: Francois Cuypers, Kresten Bjerre, Benny Nielsen, Gerard Desanghere, Maurice Martens, Odillon Pollenius, Wietse Veenstra, Pol Schouppe, Nico de Bree, Felix Week – coach.
Sitting: Eric Dumon, Eddy Koens, Chris Stroybant, Willy Wellens, Jozef Desmedt, Jan Boskamp, Jacques Teugels.
On the surface, it was refreshing change of guard: brand new champions are always exciting news – status quo is boring. They looked good on record too – obviously, attacking team, which never fails to endear fans: 25 wins, 11 losses, and only 2 ties. It was ‘all of nothing’, based on scoring plenty – 92 goals in total. Defense was less efficient, allowing 1 goal per match on average (39 goals in total), but the attacking approach paid off well enough. It was even strange, given the anonymity of the squad, but it could have been the first blow of winds of change… Week was unknown coach and he had similarly unknown squad – Maurice Martens played about 10 years for the national team and Willy Wellens eventually was called for national duty, but in later years. By far, the best known player was defender Odillon Pollenius, who remembered sunny days from 1970 World Cup and not so rainy ones from 1972 European Championship. ‘Remember’ is the word really, for Pollenius was entering the age of quitting the game. The foreign stable included two Danes – Kresten Bjerre and Benny Nielsen; and 4 Dutch – Nico de Bree, Wietse Veenstra, Eddy Koens, and Jan Boskamp. Boskamp (there is some mystery about his name too – usually ‘Jan’ is given, but the official FC Brussels site stubbornly calls him ‘Johan’) was voted Belgian Player of the Year and may be considered the star player of the team. Later he was included in Holland’s squad for the 1978 World Cup. So far, so good… and getting better, for Paul van Himst joined the club for the next season, arriving from across town and Anderlecht. Alas, RWD Molenbeek happened to be one time wonder… and after awhile Nielsen and de Bree moved to Anderlecht. The winds of change came from the big boys, not from the suburbs. No matter. Personally, I was happy to see new champions in 1975; as for lasting memories… FC Brussels fans and those odd 40, who resurrected the strange club, have to sort them out between themselves. After all, if the titles of Racing (6) and Daring (5) are counted, it would be 12th title in 1975, not the first and only.