Simon, I’ll give you the key to our success. You’ll win for us, won’t you.
– Raymond Goethals
Apart from the colors, Standard and Ajax Amsterdam have little in common. The playing style that made the reputation of the two teams is completely opposite: the furie on the Maas and Cruyff’s total football on the Amstel side. The mutual transfers can also be counted on one hand: Tahamata and Danilo in the direction of Liège, Meeuws, Wamberto and Marin up north. “Standard is more like Feyenoord, which also has a tradition of working class football. However, that doesn’t exclude good technical players such as a Sigurvinsson at Standard.” says Simon Tahamata.
A good 39 years earlier, Simon Tahamata opened the road to Liège … in an Ajax context similar to that of the Romanian midfielder recently. That is, the day after a lost semi-final in the Champions League against an English team (Nottingham Forest in 1980, Tottenham in 2019). The respective transfer amounts are clearly no longer comparable: 25 million BEF (around 625,000 euros) for the small Moluccan and 12.5 million euros for the Romanian player of the year 2018. However, the comparison ends here: where Marin was courted by the Dutch for a long time, Ajax simply drove Tahamata towards the exit.
“Ajax sold me without notifying or involving me.“, Simon Tahamata has always regretted. Even though this did not change his feelings towards the Dutch club where he signed again as a youth coach in 2015, and this after a first experience between 1999 and 2004. “At that time it was always like that. I had resumed training on a Monday with Ajax, when a manager informed about certain speculations. The Ajax chairman called me on Thursday evening to say that I had been sold to Standard! I then left for Liège to undergo some medical tests and I signed my contract. On Sunday the pre season training started with the Rouches, led by a certain Ernst Happel.”
A spicy detail when we remember that the Austrian coach, who was to become the savior of the Orange team in 1978, had not retained Tahamata in his list of 22 players for the Argentina World Cup. “I was part of the preselection of 25 players but never made it to the end… I had spoken to him again during a tournament in Paris with PSG, Ajax, Hamburg and Standard. We happened to be in the same hotel as Standard. I didn’t know at that time I would ever play with Standard under his care. From what I heard, Happel insisted on bringing me in.”
But somewhere Simon Tahamata felt that not everyone rated him highly at Ajax. A year before his departure for Standard, Ajax had already taken on an amazing attitude. “Peter Boeve (who later became his teammate at Beerschot) had just been bought from Vitesse Arnhem and coach Henk Wullems contacted me to see if I was interested in a transfer in the opposite direction. When I was 23, I didn’t see myself play for a club that fought relegation. If I were to leave, I’d rather opt for Twente or RWDM … But it became clear to me that the members of the management were not satisfied with my services. I couldn’t help but think that they would rather have been rid of me.”, he said in an interview with a Dutch magazine in 1979.
Did the Moluccan background of Simon Tahamata play a role in this attitude? In the 1970s, various members of the community from the former Dutch colony did not hesitate to take vigorous actions to protest against their deplorable living conditions in the various camps. Actions such as hijackings and abductions. Simon Tahamata himself was born in one of the camps. “I have a Dutch passport, then I adopted Belgian nationality. But these are just papers. I am Moluccan in case you didn’t see that yet (laughs). I didn’t live in the worst camp, but I could have been one of the hijackers.”
Fact remains that Simon was launched by Tomislav Ivic in 1976, and won 4 titles in 5 years at the Dutch club and became international in 1979 to succeed Robbie Rensenbrink. In retrospect, Simon did not go backwards with his transfer to Standard. “With Happel, I mostly played on the left wing. When Raymond Goethals took over the team, I was given more freedom as a second striker.”
“I am not someone who scores a lot of goals.“, Tahamata said before he left Ajax (13 goals in 109 games). A statistic that was confirmed during his first season as Rouche (4 goals in 34 games). He scored his first two goals for the fans against … F.C. Bruges on 7 September 1980, and with a great performance he single handedly won the game … 1-7 at the Olympiastadion. “That day we were destroyed by one man.“, one day summarized his former teammate Walter Meeuws, then still playing in blue and black.
In all competitions, he scored 7 goals, including one at Sclessin (in the derby against RFC Liégeois) and ended that 80-81 season with a win in the cup (4-0 against Lokeren with a Tahamata goal). It was the season in which a friendship for life was born with Jos Daerden, who had welcomed the Tahamata family at his home during their first months in Belgium.
The best season was yet to come (despite the huge blunder that was the Standard-Waterschei affair) with Raymond Goethals. “Ah Raymond … Yes, all what was said is true. During the tactical discussions, he said that I could go to sleep. And on the eve of a game, he never wanted me to train to prevent an injury. I didn’t always agree … ”
Just as Rensenbrink was a fan’s favorite in Anderlecht, so was Simon in Liège. “I secretly played futsal in the Netherlands during the week. Nobody at Standard was aware .. until a screening was shown on Dutch television! Of course there was some unrest … but I didn’t get a fine. And I kept playing futsal! At Standard we were a team of friends, even outside the field, with many guys from Limburg, as well as Meeuws, Haan and Botteron. In fact there were very few French speaking players in this team, except Michel Preud’homme and some young players such as Gilbert Bodart, Roberto Sciascia and Etienne Delangre. The language of the dressing room was Dutch. Whether there was a lot of partying? You mean all the time (laughs). But the next morning we were all there. Goethals sensed how far he could let us go, for example I enjoyed a day of jogging at Sart Tilman’s to go to the hairdresser (laughs).”
And the anecdotes keep coming. “Awaiting a trip to Kuwait, I bought an Arabian robe. Once in Zaventem, I disguised myself in the toilets and passed the customs incognito. Raymond did not immediately find me back on the plane and wanted to prevent it from taking off without me. He was worried about my “absence”. When I showed myself, he had a good old swearing. Roger Petit, who was traveling with us, couldn’t stop himself. OK, I was disguised but I was on time on the plane (laughs) Raymond was invariably very nervous when it was still 0-0 at half time, and he asked his assistant Léon Semmeling to remind me how to fall in the box … It’s true that I won a lot of penalties for the Rouches … ”
Simon Tahamata, almost the official penalty taker at that time, even became vice-top scorer in the 82-83 championship with 19 goals (including 8 penalties), just behind Erwin Vandenbergh (20). But even without the penalties he could drive the defenders crazy. A year after Birger Jensen, it was Club goalkeeper Philippe Vande Walle‘s turn to have a bitter experience with Simon at Olympia. “I remember that Rik de Saedeleer, who commented on the games for the BRT (Flemish televison), closed the game with a “Club Bruges zero, Tahamata three.”
With Standard, the Moluccan won everything (cup, super cup and the championship), except for a European final. “Barcelona in 1982. Vandersmissen was quick to open the score, but you felt that you could not win this match. During the break I did not want to go back on the field. That Spanish defender Migueli was a real assasin, it had nothing to do with football anymore.”
The beautiful story ended abruptly in April 84 with a suspension of 9 months after the affair. “I have experienced the best years of my career at Standard. A fantastic period at Sclessin … but it can hardly be any different when you go through the names of that time: Preud’homme (you felt he had the coaching in him), Gerets, Meeuws, Dusbaba, Renquin, Plessers, Vandersmissen, Haan, Daerden – Jos became a friend for life – Önal, Graf, Edström, Hrubesch, Wendt … Standard had already experienced some beautiful generations, but this one too was very mature.”
He scored his last goal as Rouche on March 25, 1984 with the crazy derby in and against Seraing (4-5, Tahamata scored the 4-4). His last match was on April 1 … against Bruges. A way to complete the circle for his stay in Begium.
While his players’ chapter at Sclessin was closed in 84, he did return to the club in 1996 as a youth coach. “I had just finished my active career and wanted to become a youth coach. I was looking for a job near my home in Tongeren and applied for a job with Roger Henrotay who was still with Standard at the time. I provided technical training and coached the junior team. I stayed there for three years, and had Mehdi Carcela, Kevin Mirallas, Nacer Chadli, Olivier Werner, Jonathan Legear, and Junior Edmilson under my care … Then I left for Germinal Beerschot in 1999, which became a satellite of Ajax It was certainly not following a conflict that I left Standard, but I could not put the question of Ajax aside … ”
The Standard fans never blamed him. Not even when he returned to Belgium after an intermediate step at Feyenoord. First at Beerschot (1987-1990) and then at Germinal Ekeren to end his career in 1996. Although he repeatedly crossed Standard on the field between 1987 and 1996, he scored only once against the Rouches, and that in a cup match on December 21 1988. “The Standard fans did not blame me when I blocked their road to Europe with Germinal. As I always say: if you give a lot, you get a lot.”
(c) Philippe Gerday – October 2019
Date of Birth: 26 May 1956, in Vught (Netherlands)
Affiliated at Standard: 25 July 1980 – 3 August 1984
Trophies with Standard: 2x Belgian Champions (1982, 1983), 1x Cup Winner (1981)
International Caps / Goals: 22 / 2
1967 – 1971
1971 – 1976
K.S.V. Theole (Netherlands)
A.F.C. Ajax (Netherlands)
1976 – 1980
1980 – 1983
1984 – 1987
1987 – 1990
1990 – 1996
A.F.C. Ajax (Netherlands)
Royal Standard de Liège
S.C. Feyenoord (Netherlands)
K. Beerschot V.A.V. (13)
K.F.C. Germinal Ekeren (3530)
1996 – 2000
2000 – 2004
2004 – 2009
2009 – 2014
2014 – today
R. Standard de Liège (Youth)
K.F.C. Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen (Youth)
A.F.C. Ajax (Youth & Technical Coach)
Al-Ahli S.C. (Youth & Technical Coach)
A.F.C. Ajax (Technical Coach)
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup