« Firmly installed in the iron defense, imagined, designed then assembled by Michel Pavic, Jacky was an extremely important element in the conquest of titles with Standard and building the international reputation of the club. »
– Christian Raspiller (journaliste La Meuse)
The Luxembourg pioneer
History tells us that Jacques – obviously Jacky for everyone – Beurlet was born in Marche-en-Famenne on December 21, 1944 during an unforgettable winter, for so many (unfortunate) reasons. « I was born in the basement of a road worker who lived opposite my parents, Jules and Antoinette. », Jacky told Lucien Longrée, a pensioner from Liege who nicely explains his encounters with ex-players on Facebook, just before he died. « We returned to the family cellar a few hours after I was born. We were in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge at the time, with planes flying overhead all the time and bombs raining like flakes in a snowstorm. »
All this, of course, because of the last major battle of the Second World War on December 16 that started under the German code name “Wacht am Rhein” (referring to the painting by Lorenz Clasen). What history will undoubtedly mistakenly call the ‘von Rundstedt offensive‘ when the German Field Marshal General found the plan to capture the Port of Antwerp too ambitious, and preferred to consolidate his positions around Aachen and the Maas.
Coincidentally, a few months later Danielle, Jacky’s future wife, was born a few kilometers from Marche: « In Marenne to be exact. », says Danielle. « Our village was attacked and burned down twice. The Germans first came in September 1944 and they had promised to come back … and did they come back! Did you know that the Battle of Verdenne left more than 2,500 dead? Verdenne is a small village in the municipality of Marenne. »
The two teenagers will often meet during these times of recklessness: « Our parents knew each other and saw each other often. Danielle’s father was a city councilor. The boys from the village then rolled up their sleeves. They went to pick up cartridges, grenades, whatever was lying around. When we now look back on that whole event, we realize how dangerous it was (laughs) … »
But to be clear, it wasn’t until many years later that Jacky and Danielle would unite in 1970: « We knew each other from here in the village, but it was in Liege that we courted each other. Jacky played at Standard, while I was a teacher in Fétinne. We spent thirty years together in Liège, on the Quai de Rome, until we returned to Marche to be closer to our daughter … »
Football started to emerge in adolescence. At the time, you had to be 12 to officially play football. « I signed my first membership card in Marche-en-Famenne. By the way, it was a former Tilleur trainer, Théo Kumur, who was my first coach. Our region was visited by many Liège players. Robert Xhaard came to Marche, Marcel Paeschen trained Nassogne, Jean Nicolay trained Marloye and Bernisart, with his son Jean Junior coaching the goalkeepers. But above all, Jean was a great fan of fishing, he crisscrossed our rivers to fish for trout. »
His sporting future changed after a practice match between Standard and Marche as part of a tournament for students in Bastogne in 1958. « Afterwards, three of us from Marche went to test at Standard. » With a contract signed with Standard on July 1, 1959. « In the youth ranks I played with Jean Thissen, Nico Dewalque, Léon Jeck… Maurice Grisard and Jules Fabry were our trainers and Mr. Baiwir our delegate. We trained in the evening, just like the first team. »
A breakthrough would not take long. The young Jacky played his first official match already at the age of 16 away at Olympic Charleroi (1:2 victory on October 1, 1961 with Frenchman Jean Prouff who had just succeeded the Hungarian Kalocsay). « It was during the first official season in the first, when I was 20, that Standard turned to semi-professionalism. At one point, Roger Petit came into the locker room and told us, “Gentlemen, tomorrow is training at 3pm! However, most of us had a job, so that was not evident. Little by little, those players who chose the security of their job left us: De Lunardo, Jef Vliers, Henri Thellin, Denis Houf and Maurice Bolsée. »
Pavic repositions him as … left back!
At that time, Jacky plays as a striker playing behind Roger Claessen, the enfant terrible of Sclessin. It allows him play in the national youth teams first, and especially to be called up by the military team, which at that time had an importance with the “Kentish Challenge Cup” and the CISM (international council for military sports). « My military service caused a lot of damage. Especially since it took no less than 15 months at that time. I played 28 of the 30 games in the junior team. The 2 games that I missed, I was punished and ended up in military jail! The officer on duty who was responsible for me was looking for me but could not find me. I was just in the gym and was exercising there alone … But I was suspended for two weeks nevertheless. I was with the 4th Armed Forces in Amay and we received 13 Belgian francs a day … »
That money was deposited into an account at Bank Nagelmackers, Standard’s house banker, and a first car was bought at the age of 21. « At that time you were only adult at the age of 21. And it was a small car that you even had to push several times in the winter to kickstart it. »
But it was above all the arrival of the Yugoslav Michel Pavic that strongly influenced Beurlet’s sporting future and gave the Rouches an international dimension. Michel Pavic’s philosophy was to build the defense first and the least we can say, and even write, is that he did it. With Jean Nicolay first and later Christian Piot, Jacky Beurlet, Léon Jeck, Nico Dewalque and Jeannot Thissen, a real “Wall of Sclessin” was set up for the opponents, both on the banks of the Meuse and with the national team.
«When Pavic arrived, I played in the front just behind Roger Claesen, at the time as ‘inside right’, with Léon Semmeling on the right wing. When Henri Thellin stopped, Pavic put me on left back, because on the right Jef Vliers was a real rock! It was only when Jef left that I moved to the right. We had an incredible defense, with an imperial Louis Pilot in front of us. In the current generation Fellaini has a bit of the style of Pilot: elegant on the field, but a very powerful shot. »
Michel Pavic (1921-2005, and who we also see back at Sclessin between 1985 and 1988) handed over the keys to this impressive war machine to the young Frenchman René Hauss – then only 41 years old, a ‘child’ at the time as a trainer. – with three titles in a row (1969/1971).
Jacky’s best anecdotes are linked to Roger Claessen: « When we were in Chaudfontaine to prepare for games, Michel Pavic demanded an iron discipline. As such, Roger Claessen was a nightmare for Pavic. So I played taxi with my car and went to drop off and pick up Roger when he left. Pavic regularly looked through the window to keep an eye on Roger’s car. And when the car didn’t come from the parking lot, he could go to sleep peacefully. »
Or when the enfant terrible arrived unexpectedly: « At the beginning of our marriage, we spent the day in Marche with our parents. A large car (with a German registration) stopped in front of the house, the door opens and Roger Claessen (who already played Alemannia Aachen at the time) enters with a beautiful German speaking blonde on his arm. Jacky’s grandfather, sitting in his armchair in the corner of the living room, asks in Walloon: “Well, who is that tall blonde there?” Roger turns around and answers in Walloon: “Ah grandpa, this is my last transfer of the night …”. »
“He was a really good guy”
« My first meeting with Jacky was of course during training. », Christian Piot tells us. « I joined the squad in 1966 and was 19 years old. I was the fourth goalkeeper in the hierarchy behind Jean Nicolay, Frans Dignef and Lucien Bertrand. The team was then in complete reconfiguration. You need to know that Dewalque, Pilot, Beurlet, and Jeck started out as strikers before slipping back to defense. Jacky was a man who relied a lot on his strength, but above all he was a nice guy. Where Louis Pilot settled an incident – with a small apology afterwards – after a tackle on his ankles or when you hit his teammate too hard, Jacky was someone who made too many mistakes because of his impulsiveness. In all these years I never saw him get angry. He was a quiet one, sometimes even a loner. We often went for drinks or cards in the pub opposite the stadium but he never came along. He went right home. I got to know him better when René Hauss arrived. At the time, Standard had training centers spread across Liège (Sart Tilman, Petit Bourgogne, Ougrée, Flémalle). When Mr. Hauss gave us a day off on Wednesday, the players went to visit these centers. I worked with Jacky. It was here by the way that we met a certain Michel Preud’Homme who must have been 10/11 years old. He then lived with his mother in Strivay behind Esneux and we took him home by car after training. »
My best memory with Jacky? A huge giggle. « In 1968, in the Cup Winners’ Cup, we had a test match against the great AC Milan. 1-1 in Sclessin but especially 1-1 in San Siro. A test match had to organized – legend has it that Roger Petit turned a blind eye during the draw and a month later was able to free up the 6 million BF that Antwerp had asked for … Wilfried Van Moer. I was Jean Nicolay’s reserve goalkeeper and slept in the room with Léon Jeck. Our friend Jacky called us in the room to join him. We were a few hours away from the game and here he was posing in front of his mirror in full gear: “Guys, does that suit me? “We were laughing outloud … »
Three selections but with three different keepers!
And the national team you may ask? Firmly installed in Sclessin’s iron defense, however, Jacky made only three selections (USSR, April 24, 1968 (0-1) in a friendly match led by duo Constant Vanden Stock and Raymond Goethals; Finland, June 2, 1968 (2- 1) during the qualifications for the World Cup ’70; Yugoslavia October 19, 1969 (0-4) during the qualifications for the World Cup ’70) and was called up a total of ten times between March 6, 1968 (Germany, 1-3) and 11 June 1970 (Mexico, 0-1, 1970 World Cup in Mexico). This did not prevent him from belonging to the squad that went to the World Cup in Mexico in 1970, thirteen years after the last qualification. It would then be another 12 years wait for the next World Cup qualification for the Belgians.
« The explanation is simple », confides Christian Piot: « The competition. Throughout his career he faced incredible rivals such as Yves Baré (21 selections between 1961 and 1967), Georges Heylens (67 selections between 1961 and 1973), Gilbert Van BInst (15 selections between 1972 and 1977) and then the internal rivals of a certain … Eric Gerets (86 caps between 1975 and 1991) … »
It was also a time when the Red Devils played very few international matches. In comparison, in 2021, despite the health crisis and the restrictions imposed, the national team can … play 18 games! Strangely enough, Beurlet played his three games with… three different goalkeepers: Fernand Boone, from Bruges in Russia, Jean Trappeniers from Anderlecht in Finland and… Christian Piot in Yugoslavia.
« Of course I remember that very well, because it was my first selection » says Piot. « The team had already qualified for the World Cup in Mexico. At the time, you had to finish first in your playoff group. Then the “second best” did not exist, nor were there any play-offs. The Red Devils had eliminated Spain and Yugoslavia, which had played in the Euro 1968 final in Italy. After half an hour it is already 3-0, we were nowhere. When I got back to the locker room, I sighed, “I’m playing my first and last game.” The addition – mainly thanks to Piot – ended with four goals and Piot’s diabolical career soared (World Cup 1970 in Mexico, 3rd at Euro 1972 in Belgium and a total of 40 international matches). “At the core of the time, there were a few Standardmen with Thissen, Dewalque, Van Moer and Semmeling. But Georges Heylens was indisputably at the back of the right back … »
His enthusiasm and kindness will continue to characterize him until the end of the adventure at Sclessin. With a total of 360 official matches (269 in the league, 43 European Cup, 38 in the Belgian Cup, 10 in the league cup, not to mention 106 friendly matches) and twelve goals scored. In his trophy cabinet: four Belgian championship titles (1963, 1969, 1970, 1971), 2 Belgian cups (1966 and 1967) with three lost finals (1965, 1972 and 1973).
His professional adventure will last another year at Union St-Gilloise, where he went with Léon Jeck, before moving to Royale Namur (1975/1976), US Tellin (1976/1979), and Roy Lignieux Gribomont. (1979/1984).
He was the first football ambassador of the province of Luxembourg and paved the way for Philippe Albert, Roch Gerard or, more recently, Timothy Castagne. At Standard his heirs are called Michel Renquin, Etienne Delangre, Toni Englebert or more recently Renaud Emond.
Jacky Beurlet died at his home in Marche-en-Famenne on September 26, 2020 at the age of 75. The Covid-19 pandemic thwarted the accolades he deserved as a true Standard legend.
© Christian Raspiller – May 2021
Date of Birth: 21 December 1944, in Marche-en-Famenne
Deceased: 26 September 2020, in Marche-en-Famenne
Affiliated at Standard: 1 July 1959 – 30 June 1974
Trophies with Standard: 4x Belgian Champions (1963, 1969, 1970, 1971), 2x Belgian FA Cup (1966, 1967)
International games / goals: 3 / 0
1957 – 1959
1959 – 1964
Entente Marche F.C. (1954)
Royal Standard Club Liégeois (loan)
1964 – 1974
1974 – 1975
1975 – 1976
1976 – 1979
1979 – 1984
Royal Standard Club Liégeois
Royale Union (10)
Union Royale Namur (156)
Union Sportive Tellinoise (3466)
Entente Roy Lignières Girbromont (6120)
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup