Jozef Mermans, born in Antwerp on February 16 1922, was the striker who lead Anderlecht to national glory for the first time. The 'Bombardier' came to Anderlecht during the second World War. Back then, the club hadn't won a single trophy. But when Mermans arrived, that all changed. He stayed in Brussels for 15 years and won 7 titles. He scored 249 goals for the Mauves and remains Anderlecht's top scorer with 13 goals more than Paul Van Himst.
Mermans only had one real friend during his childhood: the ball. Little Jef, aged four, was waiting for the photographer to complete his portret. He got very impatient and the photographer gave him a red ball to play with. From then on, he wouldn't let go of the thing anymore. His mother had to pay 10 Francs, a small fortune back then, to buy it. And during the years, his parents had to pay a lot more for the broken windows he caused. But all the practice would make him a fantastic player.
During his school years, Mermans played in a team called the young lions. They had red and white as shirt colour, similar to their favorite club: Royal Antwerp FC. Their idol was Désiré 'Dis' Bastin. When they wanted to join the 'Great Old', the club refused because the youngsters weren't able to pay. Another club, Tubantia Borgerhout, gladly accepted the young players in 1932. After a few weeks he made his debute and he was promoted to a higher group. In the game against Olse Merksem he scored 10 goals. Final result: 17-0!
Beerschot and Antwerp were eager to land the stiker, who was already playing in the national youth team. Beerschot offered 100.000 frank and 4 players for Mermans, but Anderlecht was prepared to pay 125.000 Francs. Tubantia, a second division club, feared that its fans would move to Antwerp or Beerschot if the player joined one of those clubs. Mermans arrived in Brussels at the end of the season '41-'42. His first game for Anderlecht was against La Gantoise. Anderlecht won 6-1 and Mermans scored three goals. But he actually wasn't entitled to play that game and the Mauves lost eventually on forfait.
Mermans became best striker in the league with in '48, '49 and '51 with 38, 23, and 37 goals. Several big European teams showed interest: Racing Paris, Arsenal, Torino, AS Roma, Lazio Roma, Atletico Madrid and Atalanta Bergamo tried to convince him to sign a deal. Mermans himself wanted to go abroad, but the Anderlecht direction board, represented by chairman Albert Roosens, always opposed against a transfer. Torino made a 20 million lire bid. AS Roma added 10 million to that offer in '51. Who was also offered a seven room appartment and an lfa Romeo. Also Real Madrid tried with a 700.000 Franc offer. Mermans was disappointed he couldn't leave, but he kept on scoring goals for Anderlecht. He could count on the excellent centers of 'Woltje' Dewael and 'Susse' Sermon.
After 15 years, Mermans left Anderlecht. He played his last game on August 15, 1957 against VUC Den Haag and ended his carreer at Olse Merksem. Later on he also coached that team. In total, he played 56 games for the national team between 1945 and 1956 and scored 26 goals.