I’ve decided to blog random bits of history, whether it be about the Belgian Pro League, the second tier, European competition or The Belgian Cup (Beker van Belgie). The reason I’ve thought up this segment is not only to educate myself about the past, but to anyone who reads this, if anyone actually does, and to see that Belgian football isn’t about 1 or 2 teams, or the odd great player produced quite regularly actually, and that teams in the past competed and that the impossible is sometimes possible.
After their own progression back into the top flight this season, I thought I’d try and dig up some stuff from their last title win, as in Pro League success! Going all the way back to the 1956/57 season. Sixty years ago Antwerp were the pride of Belgium lifting their 4th and last title with a team where, surprisingly, they won but never really built on that success.
Whenever I do this, especially with a league title, teams who have a group of players who spend around about a decade together usually build on that success. This unfortunately wasn’t the case for The Great Old, where Belgium’s oldest football club just let those overtake. A great side full of quality, English manager Harry Game had a title winning side that spread goals around the team, had a solid defence and scored, what looked like 3 goals per match looking back at their scorelines.
Winning the title by 6 points ahead of Anderlecht and Gent, it was deserved as they had the least defeats and most wins. As I’ve already mentioned, the side had players who will always be remembered, not just because of this titles success, but for their love of the club for the years after. Great players such as Vicky Mees, who was as pivotal for Belgium as he was for Antwerp. A true gentleman, he was voted Royal Antwerp Player of the Century.
Eddy Wauters was also at the club, although going by my research, he was away on loan that season! Going on to manage the club and act as chairman, a true legend was amongst this squad. Another Eddy, Eddy Bertels was also there, spending 12 years at the club and scoring 16 goals this season. Other goalscorers were Jef Van Gool, Louie Verbruggen and Constant De Backker, all hitting double figures this season and spent a combined 36 years at the club! With the latter doubling up as a defender as well as striker, showing how versatile De Backker was. Ahead of his time.
All these players were real Antwerp greats who will always live forever at the club due to the fact this is the last title ever won in the top tier and for all we know, may be the last? The unpredictable nature of certain clubs winning the Belgian league occasionally proves that may not be the case, but for as long Club Brugge and Anderlecht dominate, who knows?
For all the Antwerp fans who may read this, I felt that I didn’t pay homage to you getting promoted, so I thought I’d, deservedly, finally write about you and give some credence to a side many of you will have never witnessed, but only heard about…