« My transfer to Standard? I realised a boyhood dream! Especially as I was a big fan of Les Rouches »
– Gilbert Bodart
Gilbert Bodart, symbol of a poor ride
While bad choices after his career have largely tarnished Gilbert Bodart’s image among the general public, it is also undeniable that, from a purely footballing point of view, Gilbert Bodart was one of the driving forces behind Standard for almost 15 years during the 80ies/90ies. A worthy heir to goalkeepers such as Jean Nicolay, Christian Piot and Michel Preud’homme, he embodied all the frustrations the fans had built up after the Affair.
The question will of course always remain unanswered: what career would Gilbert have had without the corruption scandal that broke out in 1984 and led to the suspension of just about the entire team that was crowned champions in 1982 and 1983? In his 1982 book “Standard Goethals”, journalist Raymond Arets pointed out the latent dilemma on the banks of the Meuse with the presence of two talented and young goalkeepers. “The life of a reserve goalie is not always bright, nor evident. You really have to be patient. (…) Standard was very happy with two such keepers. However, the question remains: Can this situation continue for a long time? ”
With a goalkeeper as a father (who by the way could have played for Standard had Tilleur not been too demanding), and a birth that took place while Jean was on the pitch against Berchem, it was written in the stars that little Gilbert would end up between the posts. « That story… I must have heard it dozens of times, I was indeed born while my father was playing football. », confides Gilbert Bodart on the first pages of the book that Dominique Paquet dedicated to him in 1996.
Bodart made a remarkable statement about this determinism in a conversation with La Meuse when he coached Tilleur. «When I started playing football at Verlaine at the age of 10 I often played as number 10 or even as a striker. Under Ernst Happel I even played a friendly with the first team as striker (ed. In that match no fewer than three goalkeepers were on the pitch: Dardenne in goal, Preud’homme in defense and Gilbert as striker.) against Union Saint-Gilloise. It is true that I am purely left-footed, but I do what I want with it. In fact, I never liked being in goal (sic)! And I will even add that football was not my favorite sport. I’ve always preferred tennis! If Roger Petit had known that I sometimes played tournaments before or after a Standard – Anderlecht … But anyhow, I was keen to imitate my father, and he was the one who led my career. And he did it well. »
Ah, that Beckenbauer free kick
The story is well known: FC Liège was also interested in the talent that came out for Verlaine, but Standard was more convincing during the negotiations. « It was a childhood dream come true. Especially since I was an avid supporter of Standard. »
After a championship title with the UEFA juniors (as we referred to the U18 at the time), the arrival of the Austrian Ernst Happel marks his gradual integration into the first team with a first invitation to a training camp in Germany in 1979. Gilbert Bodart refers to a gala match against New York Cosmos, a famous NASL franchise (predecessor of today’s MLS) on October 9, 1980 in Jambes as his unofficial debut. And although Pelé no longer played for the visitors, the American team played with names such as Franz Beckenbauer (world champion 74), Carlos Alberto (world champion 70), Wim Rijsbergen (vice world champion 74 and 78), Vladimir Bogicevic (ex-Yugoslavian international), Giorgio Chinaglia (ex-Italian international)… and Red Devil François Van der Elst. « That day I had school, but I had skipped classes to flirt with the girls and have a few beers with my friends. Imagine my surprise when I was asked on arrival at the stadium to quickly pack my sports bag to … play the game as Michel Preud’homme was out with the flu … We won 3-0 and I stopped a difficult Beckenbauer’s free kick. »
A legend could have started … although the reality is a little but less romantic, as the most conscientious historian have noted. Gilbert Bodart played a first friendly against Swiss side FC Walde on 17 July 1980, between two matches against Neuchâtel Xamax in the context of the Summer Cup (the predecessor of the Intertoto Cup). The following season, the same Summer Cup offered him 5 games with the first team (after an injury from Michel Preud’homme) and he also made his debut in the first division on November 11, 1981 against RWDM with a first clean sheet, delivering a small contribution to the first title of the Rouches since 1971.
Michel Preud’homme felt the pressure of his competitor who wanted to play more and more. « He was making progress, Raymond Goethals appreciated him and I hadn’t had my best season even though we won the championship. », noted the 1987 and 1989 Golden Boot winner in a joint interview in the early 1990s. The match against Raba Györ in the Cup of Champions in September 1982 was a turning point. « Raymond Goethals told me that I would play that match but changed his mind the day before. He disappointed me terribly that day …», said Bodart in numerous interviews.
At that time, Gilbert Bodart is considering leaving the club to get playing minutes. He contacted Roger Petit, who was not against him leaving … on the condition that it was loan deal with no purchase option. « I took that as a sign of confidence. », Gilbert recalls. At that moment Waterschei (where veteran Pudelko was about to end his career) comes knocking on the door. However, the affair completely changed the situation and the suspensions for all players on April 2, 1984 throws Gilbert Bodart permanently in goal – even though an injury from Michel Preud’homme had already given him playing time. But the tone was set. And although the very young Rouches, flanked by experienced players such as Jelikic, Gründel and captain Hrubesch, lost 2: 0 against future champion Beveren on April 7, 1984, they played a hell of a match. “Played like lions!”, headlined La Meuse in his Monday edition with a photo of Gilbert Bodart.
« The affair was a tragedy for Standard, but it turned out to be a stroke of luck for me personally. It was the chance of a lifetime, although of course I would have preferred to have had it in better conditions. », he recalls in a lengthy interview with Pierre Bilic (Foot Magazine) in 1992. « Personally, the consequences of the affair also cost me 7 or 8 years of my career as the club was back in a reconstruction phase and we had to start from scratch. ”, he emphasizes in his book with Dominique Paquet.
The Red Devils, a difficult marriage
After the departure of Michel Preud’homme to KV Mechelen (and a difficult period for both where they ended up in a rotation construction under Pavic), Gilbert Bodart becomes one of the pillars of Standard’s new management led by the duo Jean Wauters-André Duchêne. « It’s a bit like marriage: why go anywhere else when you feel good with your partner? It is true that I did not see myself at another Belgian club, but I was tempted to gain experience abroad. It is human to want to take on new challenges. But each time Duchêne and Wauters found the words and arguments to convince me to stay at Sclessin. », he told Standard Magazine in March 1996… a few months before going on an adventure to Bordeaux for one year and then simply returning to Liège. However, there were plenty of opportunities to leave. In particular Torino, Sampdoria, Everton, Montpellier, Matra Racing Paris and even… Anderlecht showed great interest.
During all these years, Gilbert Bodart (390 games in first with the Rouches, and 470 official games) has had his allies for whom he was an example of talent, commitment, loyalty and candor. However, he also had his detractors, those who accused him of always wanting to be at the center of attention.
The same debate also took place with the Red Devils. Gilbert celebrated his first selection on the bench, behind goalkeeper Jacky Munaron. He played his first game on April 23, 1986 against Bulgaria in a qualifier in the run-up to the World Cup in Mexico. Bodart went along as the third goalkeeper behind Jean-Marie Pfaff and Jacky Munaron. « I have to admit that the role of third goalkeeper is not evident, especially for a competitive animal like me. However, in 1986 I was young and it was already sensational to be there. It was worse in 1990. I then played a qualifying match against Switzerland and in my opinion I was going to start that championship as number 1. »
Gilbert Bodart, the only international at the Rouches at the time along with Guy Hellers, could count on the support of an entire stadium at the time when the debate – then without social media – raged about who should be the number 2 behind Preud’homme. The Standard fans naturally sided with Gilbert Bodart every week with chants like “Gilbert to Italy”, when he faced competition from Filip De Wilde, who was playing in Brussels at the time. When it was decided for the World Cup in Italy that all players could sit on the bench, Guy Thys did not have to make that important decision … and in 1994 Dany Verlinden got a stroke of luck when the resident of Liège was injured.
Gilbert Bodart briefly reached nirvana in 1995 and became number 1 after Michel Preud’homme left the national team behind him. He started with a great performance in Sevilla against Spain, which came to win in Brussels a few months earlier (1-4). Then there was a more delicate match against Denmark in September, which destroyed his dream and eventually led to the difficult decision to withdraw from the national team. A dispute with coach Paul van Himst also had an important impact here, but that would lead us too far here.
Tears in the aftermath of the lost Golden Boot
A surprising result was one of the most important disappointments in Gilbert Bodart’s career: the loss of the Golden Boot in 1995, he who dreamed so much of succeeding Jean Nicolay, Christian Piot and Michel Preud’homme (2x with K.V. Mechelen). .
One of the most important architects of the beautiful season 94-95 in which Standard finished second, the defeat against Denmark (« I remembered that one for a long time. Gunther Schepens took the ball out of my hands, Michael Laudrup scored, and we missed out on qualifying for the European Championship because of that. I paid that goal in cash in the election of the Golden Boot. ») and a difficult UEFA Cup match in Guimaraes (where he was injured) leaves its mark. They weigh heavily in the second round voting … while some voters already ignored him in the first round. « I will make people happy tonight. Either the Standard supporters will be over the moon, or all my opponents will be. » , he said in the run-up to the ceremony. And in the end Paul Okon (Club Brugge) was awarded the title rather than Gilbert Bodart.
Coincidentally, Standard plays in Bruges the very next day (against Cercle). « I was the laughing stock of the day. But it motivated me to show what I was capable of. » Author of a great match including a saved penalty, Bodart left the field in tears. « That was the first time this had happened to me,” he said after the game. “I’ve been experiencing unbelievable stress for months. This morning when I woke up I was very sorry. For me, my chance to win the Golden Boot had passed. And then this hard earned victory, these formidable supporters singing my name, it was too much emotion. »
The 1993 Cup of Belgium, an unforgettable memory
« I think if I had played for another club, I would have won more trophies.” This sentence sums up the feeling of unfinished business after his active career. Although he was at the core of the champions team in 1982 and 1983, his contribution was rather limited. As a goalkeeper, he was only very rarely part on the side of the winners: twice vice-champion (1993 and 1995), three lost cup finals (1984, 1988, 1989), and second place at the Golden Boot.
More than the four titles of best goalkeeper in the Belgian league, the 1993 cup final remains an indelible memory marked by the joy of “Gil” holding up the trophy. « I’ve always said I’d stick with Standard until the day I win something. Today the time has finally come. » It is the greatest day of his career. « I had never won anything concrete, but with a great team you can do anything. This was the case today. For Guy Hellers and I, it was time to win this trophy. » , he stated on the evening of June 6, 1993. Over time, the enjoyment will become more candid and less poetic. « Winning in Anderlecht, against Charleroi, that was the ultimate. We beat our two worst enemies in the competition. »
Even more memorable is the impromptu party on the way back to Sclessin with a flight over the stadium by … helicopter. « We flew over the pitch and then the pilot descended very low, just above the crowd. Since we were a little tipsy, we didn’t quite realize it, but it was kind of crazy nonetheless. »
Once on the field … against Standard
After leaving for the first time in 1996, Gilbert Bodart returned to Sclessin the following year, after losing a Coupe de la Ligue final with Bordeaux. The high expectations with the arrival of Aad de Mos and a strong transfer period (with the brothers Mpenza, Medved, Suray, Van der Doelen, among others) bring him back home just in time for the centenary of the club. « I made huge financial sacrifices by choosing Standard. But that’s the way it is. I love this club. I couldn’t have tolerated Standard becoming champion without me. »
During that period there was no shortage of empty promises and Standard never played a leading role that season. The arrival of Robert Louis-Dreyfus in 1998 heralded his final departure. At the time, the supporters were particularly angry and emotional, but Vedran Runje took up the challenge brilliantly.
After three years of Serie B (Brescia and Ravenna) Gilbert Bodart ended up in August 2001 in … Beveren where he was nothing more than a caricature of himself. « I can now admit it: I actually didn’t want to play anymore. On the other hand, I dreamed of playing against Standard. », he said a year later when he became a coach of Visé (in 2nd division). An effective reunion follows twice as a coach on the visitor’s bench at Sclessin (in 2002 with Visé and in 2004 with Ostend).
Twenty years after his departure, another Bodart took over: Arnaud, the son of his brother Vincent (who was also his reserve during the 89-90 season). While Gilbert scored penalties in the league, his cousin fared better last fall with a field goal against Eupen. A performance that Gilbert narrowly missed in 91-92 against Anderlecht. « Filip De Wilde would never have stopped the cannonball I was about to shoot in his net if Patrick Asselman had passed the ball to me … »
A goal in a Clasico, it would have been legendary …
(c) Philippe Gerday – May 2021
ate of birth: 2nd September 1962, in Ougrée
1st affiliation at Standard: 1st July 1977 – 7th August 1996
2nd affiliation at Standard: 23rd July 1997 – 3rd August 1999
Trophies with Standard: 1x Belgian F.A. Cup (1993), 2x Belgian League title (1982, 1983)
International gams / goals: 12 / 0
1972 – 1977
1977 – 1981
C.S. Verlaine (2871)
Royal Standard de Liège
1981 – 1996
1996 – 1997
1997 – 1998
1998 – 2000
2000 – 2001
2001 – 2002
Royal Standard de Liège
F.C. Girondins Bordeaux (FRA)
Royal Standard de Liège
Brescia Calcio (ITA)
Ravenna Calcio (ITA)
K.S.K. Beveren (2300)
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup