End of an era
Phóenix semper pérvivet

Rensenbrink, Rob Stats

Raymond Goethals talks about Rob Rensenbrink: "Anderlecht was able to build a new stadium and it owed half of the fundings to Robbie." Also Paul Van Himst honoured the Dutchman: "He's the second best in the world, after Johan Cruijff". And what about Constant Vanden Stock's opinion? "Robbie was the best!" Everyone names Rensenbrink as best Anderlecht player ever. And the Dutchman is proud of that: "Anderlecht had many great players: Van Himst, Jurion, Swat Van der Elst, Lozano, ..., Coeck and Puis. They were all the best players in Europe on their positions in those days. But if people as Vanden Stock, Goethals and Van Himst, who have known me very well, say that I'm the best, then I can't deny that I'm touched."

Rensenbrink (Oostzaan, near Amsterdam, 03-07-1948) played his first game for a local team, namely OSV. Later he left for DWS Amsterdam. Georg Kessler selected him for the Dutch national team. In the summer of '69, he made the move to Club Brugge. He had never heard of that team before, because in those days, Brugge was still a small club. But Robbie saw Brugge as a quick stop, because he wanted to play for a big foreign team. "I wanted to go to Ajax, but they had Piet Keizer. I stayed in contact with Feyenoord, where Moulijn played. But then Club Brugge showed interest and they offered me a good salary. I loved the 'Flemish atmosphere' and my fellow countrymen Frans De Munck (trainer) and Henk Houwaart were in Brugge too. I had a good time in this team full of warm people. Our team was strong too (Lambert, Carteus, Vandendaele, Houwaart,...). We won the Belgian Cup and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup. I felt good and the fans nicknamed me the snake." But two years later, the big club he had been dreaming about contacted him: Anderlecht! "In those days, Anderlecht wasn't that huge club in Europe anymore. But they offered me a far higher salary than Brugge. They were also more professional. But if it wasn't for the money, I would have stayed in Brugge. Anderlecht was a totally different club. The direction board consisted out of gentlemen. They weren't as spontaneous as chairman Hutsebaut of Club Brugge. It wasn't my style, but I did my best. But that didn't mean I didn't like the club. I had a good time. And there were other Dutchmen playing for the Brussels' club: Jan Mulder, Jan Ruiter and Leen Barth. Kessler was coaching the team. I knew him from the Dutch national team."

Rensenbrink came to Anderlecht in exchange for Puis and Johhny Velkeneers. On top of that, the Mauves also paid 6 million Francs. But Anderlecht would never regret the financial effort they had to make. Rensenbrink became Anderlecht's star and won two titles, four cups and two European Cup winners Cups ('76 and '78) in nine years time. Robbie had an easy personality and Kessler was the tough guy. But they could get along very well. "Everything had to be perfect, even the balls and the lines on the field... One season later, the results weren't as good as expected and he was fired." Van den Bosch replaced him, followed by Braems (who won one title and one cup), Hans Croon (the only trainer Rensenbrink had a fight with) and Goethals. "It was a pleasure to serve under Goethals. When we said: 'oh no, not another run in the park!', the he even listened to us (laughs)."

Though Rensenbrink only won two titles with Anderlecht. "We were missing guys who wanted to work very hard for the team. Real leaders ... Later on De Bree, Thissen, Dusbaba,... joined us. Those were the guys we needed." Those were the guys who also wanted to impress in the every day games of the Belgian League, against Beveren, Waterschei or Cercle Brugge for example. Because in the seventies, Anderlecht always played great in European games. But the performance in the domestic league, was less good. The European games were also Robbie's games: "That's when Robbie put his toxido on", describes Raymond Goethals. "I entered the stadium and felt the adrenaline pumping through my veins", admits the snake. The best memories are the European finals of course. "Those games were different than a match against Beveren for example. But that doesn't mean I never performed well in our own league. I know that's what some people claim, but it's not true. But I admit that I was a player with a decisive. I didn't want to run after the ball all the time. Because then I wasn't fit enough to score when it was needed."

And that's how he became a star. "Simply by playing football. Everyone liked me, but I was a very calm person. Not all Dutchman have a big mouth. I don't know what other players thought about me, but didn't have problems with anyone. Within our own team, we were all friends. Not that we went out together, but drinking a beer now and then was a something we did. Anyway, we had a good group. No jealousy, but there was some competition between the players. Though the reserves and substitutes accepted their place. Having dinner together, that's another thing we did together. The players and everyone around the club." So is there anyone else Rensenbrink still thinks about? "Beeckman, Van Himst, Van Binst and Denil. Sometimes I got agitated because of Van Binst, but we also had good fun together. He's a guy you can't stay mad at."

Rensenbrink prefered to have some peace. Though at the end of his carreer in Anderlecht, he was captain of the team. "Ach... Shaking hands with the referee. It wasn't more than that. A club like Anderlecht has people to arrange all kinds of things. It wasn't such an honour to be the captain. It wasn't important to me." Rensenbrink also kept distance from the fans. He never wanted his own supporter club and stayed away from the media's attention. That's who he was and when Arie Haan arrived, it led to some problems. "Arie Haan was someone who always wanted to win, while I tried to act as normal as possible." A fight between the two led to Rensenbrink's departure in 1980.

Rensenbrink: "That whole affaire hurt me deeply. That's indeed why I left the club. I knew that's who he was and I didn't want to see his face every day in the locker room. That's who I am. I can get along with everyone, but when someone shows up that I hate, I'll never forget. It ruined the whole atmosphere in the group. We also won many prizes and most of us got a bit tired and were looking for new challenges. At that moment, jealousy conquered the group. The chairman knew about the problem. I explained it to him. I said that I was leaving and he got angry and replied: 'you will stay! Haan has to go'. Of course he was also afraid of what the fans would think. But I insisted: 'I am 31 years old. If I leave now, you can still make some money out of me'. So with pain in my heart I left. I played my last game for the Mauves against Beerschot. It ended in a draw: 1-1. Before the game, the fans gave me flowers. The club did nothing. The next morning I left for America. Not a single Anderlecht representative was at the airport to say goodbye. No one..., besides Fernand Beeckman, the physiotherapist. I'll never forget it. I turned around and only Beeckman was waving."

In America Rensenbrink played for Portland. Later, he went to Toulouse where Van Binst was also playing. He ended his professional carreer because of a long injury. He went back to the club where it all began, OSV, an amateur team. "They offered me a better paycheck than FC Utrecht." After his carreer, no one offered him a job as trainer, only OSV did. So for a very brief period, he was trainer. Then Rensenbrink disappeared, after two World Cup finals with Holland. He was also the one who scored the thousandth goal in history of the World Cup.

"I was happy to leave Anderlecht, but I regret it later. If I had stayed, my life now would have been different. The chairman promissed me I could have become youth trainer or something similar. But that never happened. I'm not mad at him anymore. But the club is still on my mind. It's a shame they don't organise many festivities for their former players. But that's nothing new. Plaskie and Kialunda already told that before. If you don't play there anymore, you're not important. I noticed that recently on a reunion. We met Vanden Stock in the hall way. The only thing he said was hello. I always saw Anderlecht as a warm club, but now it's cold and all business. I never knew Verschueren, but he seems to be a dictator to me.

Though that doesn't mean that Rensenbrink doesn't care about Anderlecht anymore. He's still proud and that's thanks to the audience who loved him so much. "Maybe I looked like a very cool person, but the audience really warmed my heart. Nowadays I go and see Anderlecht only once per year. The last time was a disappointment. I was sitting in the business seats, behind glass. I prefer the smell of the grass. I want to sit in the terrace. The club has changed, but I believe that was needed too to survive in today's football world..."