Monday, November 17, 2014

Surprising winners of promotion, surprising champion... the Cup should have balanced that. FC Brugge reached the final. The other finalists were Beerschot (Antwerpen). Technically, the smaller club of the city in the 1970s – Royal Antwerpen was the 'big' club and it was not really much. The Bears were regular member of first division, but mid-table club at best – their glorious days were in the ancient past, when they won 7 titles. All that ended in 1939... after that – once they won the Cup: in 1971. FC Brugge was the obvious favorite: much stronger team and also they had to compensate for the weak championship performance. Beerschot did not stand a chance.
Third row, from left: Leen Barth, Walter Meeuws, Jan Ceulemans, Lajos Kü, Dirk Ranson, Henri Gogne.
Middle row: Mathieu Bollen (assistent-coach), Eddie Krieger, Raoul Lambert, Bernard Verheecke, Birger Jensen, Paul Courant, Eddy Martens, René Vandereycken, Ernst Happel (coach).
Sitting: Georges Leekens, Fons Bastijns, Jos Volders, Julien Cools, Jan Sörensen, Gino Maes, Jan Simoen, Daniel De Cubber
This season FC Brugge was arguably the most Belgian club in the league – Walter Meeuws (from Beerschot), Jan Ceulemans (from Lierse), and Peter Houtman (from Feyenoord Rotterdam) were the newcomers. The English striker Ray Clarke arrived from Ajax (Amsterdam) later. Meantime Eddie Krieger, the aging Austrian defender went to play in Holland. It was the squad built by Happel, which was aging a bit as a team and most importantly Happel was no longer around – he came back from coaching Holland at the World Cup and soon was fired. Andres Beres was the new coach – one of many Hungarians, including football players, who left their country in 1956. Beres played professionally in Belgium and Holland and later became a coach in Belgium. Good one too, judging by his stint with Anderlecht in the second half of the 1960s. But the 1960s were gone... Beres had good reputation, but he may have been out of date – FC Brugge suddenly underperfomed and by the date of the Cup final Beres was gone – temporarily, the assistant coach Matthien Bollen was at the helm. However, there were no changes in the team and there was no way to make any until the end of the season and the opening of the transfer period. Still, FC Brugge was far better team than their opponents – on paper.
On the pitch the Bears not only kept their ground, but scored a goal. FC Brugge was unable to equalize. Beerschot won 1-0. The Cup was theirs for second time. Complete triumph of the small clubs this year – the championship, the cup, one of the promotions: the big boys got nothing. Surprising winners characterized the season.
Beerschot left little evidence of their great year – the club had financial troubles, which lead to more than decline. The club practically folded by the end of the 1980s and like many other Belgian clubs went through various mergers and transformations, which according to registration rules were starting a new club. Thus, almost nothing remain from the winners – not even a team picture. A pity, for it was an interesting vintage. Georg Knobel was coaching them – the Dutch coach, who 'destroyed' the mighty Ajax in 1974-75 and then coached Holland at the 1976 European championship finals. Since his spell with the national team was not a success either, it was not surprising to find Knobel in Beerschot... There was no great performance in the league – the club finished 12th, their usual mid-table place – but they excelled in the Cup tournament. Most players were ordinary and not familiar to anyone outside Belgium. The club had no money for big transfers – the best they were able to do was acquiring the Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski after the 1978 World Cup. He joined a group of interesting players – the Haitian striker Emmanuel Sannon was a minor sensation at the 1974 World Cup: he scored against Italy, braking the clean sheet record of Dino Zoff, already running over 1200 minutes. Italy had hard time overcoming Haiti, and Sannon was hailed as the hero of the match. But it was in the early rounds of the finals and bigger sensations trumped his – Poland, for instance, with Tomaszewski between the goal-posts. Sannon was unable to score against him – now the opponents of 1974 were teammates.
Sannon had his minute of fame and was forgotten right after that – but his moment was important: Beerschot offered him a contract and he joined the club in 1974. And there he stayed – adaptation was difficult at first, but Sannon was young and determined. By 1978 he was key player, called 'Manno' by the fans.
Sannon dropped out from spotlight quickly, but Tomaszewski was talked about for years. However, he was slowly declining – he lost his place in the Polish national team during he 1978 World Cup finals and at 30 he appeared to be going down. But veteran Polish players were permitted to go professional and he got contract with Beerschot.
Perhaps not the club of his dreams, but after his World Cup fiasco not so bad. 'Tomek' was the most famous player of his new club and he played well.
The third relatively known name was Gerrit 'Gerrie' Kleton. The 25-years old Dutchman was part of the great Ajax. He almost never played, but was known largely from team pictures – sitting next to Cruyff and the rest of the big stars. Kleton moved to other clubs after 1974, but was unable to establish himself anywhere. Hardly a starter even in small clubs, he moved from place to place to the end of his career. May be Knobel brought him to Beerschot, where he seemingly failed again and did last the whole season, moving back to Holland.
Kleton scores against Belgian team – KAA Gent – but in 1982 and not as a Beerschot player. His dark shirt is Haarlem's – he moved to his homeland during 1978-79 season and arguably had his most successful years with the small Dutch club.
A pair of defenders also had minor fame: Arto Tolsa from Finland, already 33 years old, who played 10 years for Beerschot. He also played 77 games, scoring 9 goals for the national team of Finland between 1964 and 1981 – astonishing record at the time. A legend in Finland may be – a stadium is named after him – and certainly of Beerschot.
Arto Tolsa – little known player with loyal heart and great international record.
His partner was naturalized Congolese – Paul Beloy Beloy.
Still very young this season – only 22 – he quickly became respected player in Belgium, but not a great star. Because his name is confusingly doubled, he is often written just Paul Beloy.
The inevitable Dutch at the left wing: Rene Mucher.
One of the many Dutch players in Belgium, not famous at all, but seemingly useful for Beerschot.
The last and perhaps the most important player was young, but already playing for the club since 1974 – debuting along with Sannon. In 1978-79 he was only 23 years old, considered still a promise of foreign origin – so far, listed as Spaniard.
Juan Lozano was one of the greatest Belgian players of the 1980s, nicknamed the King, but his complicated dual citizenship left him out of national team football – he played a single match for Spain. Which prevented any attempts for inclusion in the Belgian selections. Already a regular, he won his first trophy this year – which was also his last season with Beerschot: he moved to USA the next season. His real fame was yet to come – for the moment, only a cup winner with a funny jersey: apparently, Beerschot advertised some firm dealing with eyeglasses.
Good for the Bear, completing the season of the underdog in Belgium.