End of an era
Phóenix semper pérvivet

Roosens, Albert

Albert Roosenswas born in Anderlecht on August 16. He signed up for the club on February 4, 1930 as a player. He would never change clubs. On January 1 1973 he became secretary-general of the Royal Belgian Football Organisation. He retired on December 31 1987 and was succeeded by Alain Courtois.

Albert Roosens had a strong personality. He was always clear, sober and accurate. That way, he became one of Belgium's most important people in the football world. Besides his job at Anderlecht, he always had time to scout young players himself. He knew everything about every player. Together with Pierre Sinibaldi, he built the great Anderlecht teams of the sixties. Also Eugène Steppé worked along side of Roosens. These three people formed the corner stone of Anderlecht. Later on, Constant Vanden Stock and Michel Verschueren continued their work.

In 1935, he was one of Anderlecht's reserves when the team promoted to the highest division. He played amongst other youngester like Victor Dorre Erroelen, Michel Van Vaerenbergh and Arnold Noulle Deraeymaecker. Roosens became president of Anderlecht, and would guide all these players to the top. Later, he would also guide Constant Vanden Stock, who was a player for Anderlecht and became youth trainer and president in a later stage. A serious accident forced Roosens to end his carreer as a player in 1937. But in 1944n he made his come-back with Anderlecht's veteran team.

A few months before the end of the War, he was appointed as secretary-general of the club, in September 1944. Soon he became chairman, when Theo Verbeeck died 1951. Eugène Steppé became secretary-general. It was the way Theo Verbeeck had wanted it.

The new chairman was an authoritarian and dynamical man. He would remain on the president seat for 29 years. He changed the club from a amateur team to a professional team. In the same period, competitor Standard underwent the same changes, led by Paul Henrard and Roger Petit.

In 1935, the Belgian Football Organisation regulated the transfer market. A good thing for Sporting. And before the season of '50-'51, Sporting organised four trainings per week and started paying the players for these trainings. That was a difficult thing to realise, because the Federal Football Organisation only allowed clubs to pay 42.000 Franc maximum per year. Chairman Kiekens of F.C. Antwerp didn't even pay his players, but he gave them material bonuses. Anyway, amateurism in Belgian slowly disappeared...

But Anderlecht wasn't a modern club yet. The club was suffering from the old statute, but Roosens found a way to bypass the rules. This is how Eugène Steppé described it in his book, Anderlecht, the history of a big club, in 1955: "Worried about the future of its players, Sporting opened bank accounts for each and every one of them. A sum will de deposited on that account every month. Once players passed the age of 35, they can access the bank account and thus gain access to the sum of money on it."

When Roosens became chairman, Sporting had already won four titles, including three in a row ('49-'50-'51). Then the club had to wait a few years before winning another title. In the season of '53-'54, the team succeeded after a remarkable game in Gent. The Anderlecht players had to wear their socks over their shoes to have some grip on the frozen soil. They won 2-4.

But before that season, Anderlecht also had its first European glory. Led by the Englishman Bill Gormlie, Sporting was invited at Wembley to celebrate the anniversary of the English Football Organisation. Later that evening, a game in Highbury, Arsenal's stadium, was scheduled. Arsenal had a rock solid reputation, but Rie Meert and his team mates smashed that reputation and beat Arsenal 2-3. It was he first foreign victory at Highbury in 90 years. After the game, Roosens congratulated the whole team and shook hands with Meert, Matthys, Dekoster, Gettemans, Valet, Degelas, Van Steen, H. Vandenbosch, Mermans, Decorte and J. Vandenbossche.

In March '54, Anderlecht installed new spots in the stadium and celebrated this event with a game against the Argentinian club Racing Club de Buenos Aires. The Mauves won 3-2, with Marcel Decorte being the star of the evening. Meanwhile, Roosens had founded a youth training center and a technical commission. The commission was engaged in solving technical, medical, social and psychological problems of the players.

But it wasn't all good. In '43 the club had to overcome a huge setback. They lost 7-0 against Spartak Moscow, but vice-chairman Leon De Porre also died that year when he left the stadium during half time in a game against Berchem Sport.

After a tournament of Sporting in Congo, Albert Roosens was appointed as a member of the Royal Belgian Football Organisation in 1955. In '67-'68 he would become vice-chairman and secretary-general in '73.

In 1955, the first European Cup was organised and Anderlecht participated. The first opponent was the Hungarian Voros Lobogo with its internationals Nandor Hidegekuti, Lantos and Palotas. The Mauves opened the score (0-1), but at half time the Hungarian side was already leading 3-2. Then came the 2nd leg in Brussels. Albert Roosens tells the story in the book Anderlecht, le Grand Espoir: "It was our 69th international game, but the first one that really mattered. It was a good match, until the Dutch referee Bronkhorst made a huge mistake. He allowed a free kick to Lobogo, but it was clear that the Hungarian striker had made a foul on our defender Martin Lippens. Hidegekuti scored on that free kick. In the second half, we equalised and it took the Hungarians a lot of trouble to score the winning goal. We had a lot of chances, but their goalkeeper, Arpad Fazekas, stopped everything. He was that good, that he played for Anderlecht seven years later, when we defeated Real Madrid."

In August '57, Jef Mermans left the club after 15 years. The direction board feared a decrease of 5.000 visitors per game, but they granted him a free transfer, which was remarkable in those days.

In August '58, the club celebrated its 50th birthday and published a Golden Book. Max Well was the publisher.

One of the best deals Roosens every did, was bringing the young Van Himst, 10 years old, to Anderlecht's training center, led by Constant Vanden Stock and Egide Van Gils.

Short before Van Himst would make his debute, Roosens handled a painful business: he fired coach Bill Gormlie, who had been working for the club for 10 years and won 5 titles: "In '58 I saw the Brazilian way of play (4-4-2 formation) and I realised this would change football forever. We went to Paris together to watch the Brazilians play and I suggested Bill that he would adopt this system. But he didn't change his own system, which had been successful until then. Gormlie was a very capable trainer and a sympathetic man. He also founded a football school in Brussels. But I was forced to fire him in order to keep Sporting at the top."

After Gormlie, players such as Martin Lippens, Jef Jurion, Pierre Poep Hanon and Jacky Stockman stayed and a few new players came: Paul Van Himst, Cornelis, Heylens, Verbiest and Puis. The new mix was successful and trainer Pièrre Sinibaldi was appointed by Roosens. Sporting played modern football and won four titles and one Cup. But the team never knew European successes. There were too many ups and downs. The Mauves eliminated Real Madrid in the Europacup in the sixties, but were completely overclassed by Liverpool. Though this team was the best Anderlecht ever had. And they did it with nothing but Belgian players. Albert Roosens also had a big triomph when Belgium's national team, that consisted out of nothing but Anderlecht players, defeated Holland in 1964. A few months later, the first three players in the Golden Shoe were Anderlecht players: Van Himst, Puis and Heylens.

In '65-'66, the direction board decided to get foreign reinforcements. Jan Mulder and Gerard Pummy Bergholtz arrived in Brussels.

In february '66, Laurent Verbiest died in a car accident. One month later, Sporting was eliminated by Real Madrid, thanks to the French referee Barberan, who had been bribed. Barberan was suspended, but Sporting was also eliminated. On the dinner after the game, chairman Roosens made a bitter remark and received an official warning of the UEFA. From then on, all dinners were organised before European games, instead of after the games.

When Sinibaldi left, Roosens celebrated two more titles: one with Andreas Beres as trainer in '67 and one year later with Noulle Deraeymaecker. Sporting won 5 successive titles that way, a record for Belgium.

In December '69, Roosens became vice-chairman of the Belgian Football Organisation. Meanwhile, Constant Vanden Stock had joined Anderlecht's direction board after the death of Constant Demeersman. When Sinibaldi returned in April '70 to replace Norberto Höffling, Roosens wanted to win his first European Cup. Anderlecht had beaten Arsenal in the final of the Fairs Cup with 3-1, but lost in the 2nd leg: 3-0. Roosens: "We needed 40 years to win our first title, so we'll wait as long as needed on our first European title."

In May '70, Eugène Steppé left the club he had been working for since 1935. Albert Roosens now became General Director. Constant Vanden Stock replaced him as chairman. 18 months later, Roosens became secretary-general for the Belgian Football Organisation by replacing José Crahay. His carreer for Belgium took a dramatic course with the Heysel drama. He wasn't able to attend the successful World Cup of 1986 due to illness. On December 31 1987, he resigned and Michel Dhooghe replaced him.

Roosens remained member of honour of the Belgian Football Organisation and occupied a job for the UEFA until 1982.