Roger Claessen













“Since Roger Claessen left, Belgium never had such a strong striker. His natural ability and talent meant that no defense was able to mute him. His engagement and temperament was unmatched.”

– Léon Semmeling

Roger, the rebellious genius

« The last one is on me at my place, which is closed today. »

« Our pleasure, Roger. » My friend Terry Dempsey and I leave the restaurant l’Asti, rue de la Madeleine and follow the greatest striker in Standard Liège’s history, and maybe even in Belgium. Once arrived in his pub Centre-avant, Roger opens up the jukebox and selects about twelve songs. To our surprise, he chose twelve times Blue Eyes from Elton John. Moving. Roger, behind the counter, Terry and I change the world yet another time that evening. And when three idealists get together on that topic, it promises to be a long evening.

That last day of September 1982, Terry and I did not realise one single time that we’d never see our friend Roger again.  He however probably programmed it a long time ago. On that Sunday of October 3rd 1982, the Standard family woke up with a huge hangover. Roger Claessen had passed away. Disbelief. Incomprehension. And above all sadness. He whose portrait looks over Sclessin will always be remembered as a true icon by those who have known him.

His numerous escapades were always accepted with leniency by the good people of Liège. Just like Tchantchès, Roger was witty, had a rebellious spirit, was a tortured soul, but who always had the people’s best interestes at heart. In fact, the people from Liège adored him, not only for his football qualities, but equally because they recognized themselves in him. With the difference that they did not act upon their beliefs like Roger did. If Roger and I sometimes might go into town, even the evening prior to a game, I did not know him that well as my colleague and friend Christian Hubert.

I read the biography again recently by Christian, journalist at La Dernière Heure / Les Sports. Full of anecdotes, it is clear how much affection he had for the person. In the postscript of the book, Roger, the James Dean of his time, commented : « I am a special case, rebellious but not a rebel. Rebellious because I rise to give my voice against injustice in today’s society. But I’m not a rebel because I don’t have that mentality of a militant. » And he carries on : « It is true that I could have added a couple of years at the highest level, but I didn’t want to change my personality. I didn’t have the need to live for the money like many others do, simply to secure their materialistic future. As my friend, Jacques Brel, and real poet said, that kind of security is just a sign of the mediocracy of the soul. »

On the pitch Roger was the most generous and spectacular player of his time. And maybe even for the following 50 years as nobody really replaced him, whether on the pitch or in the heart of the fans. Erwin Kostedde was probably the number 9 who came closest but despite his 59 goals in 67 games he could not fill the gap left by Roger in his four seasons at Standard. Clearly Roger does not have the CV reflecting his talent. Two titles, three Cups, one with Beerschot, and runner up with Alemannia Aachen, where hundreds of Standardfans supported him every two weeks. Not the greatest of CVs but he was content with it. His biggest feat is being European topscorer for Les Rouches (22 goals). We’re probably not taking a big risk in saying that the record will never be beaten.

Roger Claessen left us age 41. Did he commit suicide as some people claim? We’ll never know, but one thing is clear : he destroyed himself. Asking if he would make it in today’s football world, Christian Hubert answers without any doubt : « Yes, because the way he played.  No, because of his lifestyle. » Besides his great sporting qualities the popularity of the boy from Warsage is best characterised by an anecdote he told Chrisian : « After the game I drink some beers with my fans. Commenting my goals gives my as much pleasure as the fans listening to me. I don’t understand why the players of today (ie. 1982) leave the stadium without even looking at their fans. It’s like a factory worker leaving his work. »

A situation that hasn’t changed one single inch 36 years later.

(© Claude Henrot, September 2018)

Birth: 27 September 1949 in Warsage
3 October 1982 in Liège
Nationality: Belgium
Affiliated at Standard: July 26th 1956 – June 30th 1968
Trophies with Standard:
2x Belgian Championships (1961, 1963), 2x Belgian FA Cup (1966, 1967)
International caps / goals: 17 / 7


Youth Development

1954 – 1956
1956 – 1958

R.E.S. Dalhemoise (128)
Royal Standard Club Liégeois (16)


1958 – 1968
1968 – 1970
1970 – 1972
1972 – 1974
1974 – 1977
1977 – 1978
1978 – 1981

Royal Standard Club Liégeois (16)
T.S.V. Alemannia Aachen (DEU)
K. Beerschot V.A.V. (13)
R. Crossing Club de Schaerbeek (55)
R.J.S. Bas-Oha (1654)
R.F.C. 1924 Saint-Vith (1728)
R. Queue-du-Bois F.C. (378)



Belgian Championship
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
European Cups



Belgian Championship
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
European Cups