Eric BattyComment


Eric BattyComment

A few weeks after leading Belgium to a deserved two-all draw against England at Wembley, Joseph Jurion, inside right and captain of RSC Anderlecht, strode out at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels to meet the French and earn his fiftieth cap.

The fifth Belgian to reach the half-century mark - Vorhof, Mees, Mermas and Carre are the others - Jurion played with the last three during his early days in the national side, and is still only twenty-eight. With Vicky Mees' sixty-eight cap record within his reach, and no other Belgian even half ready to deputise as the withdrawn inside-right, Jurion should establish a new record well into the seventies. 

Though he has obvious talents and many claims to fame, the fact that Jurion always plays in glasses makes him almost unique in the top class game. Top ranking stars who play with contact lenses are almost commonplace and though players with spectacles were not rare in the period between the wars, Jurion’s glasses, his skill with the ball and the fifty caps place him in a class of his own. 

Playing as a boy in Moosbroek, Jurion wore glasses from the age of seven but always took them off to play. As a cadet and minime, he managed to hold his own but as he got older and his sight became worse, he was persuaded to try contact lenses, that, said the Anderlecht training staff, or give up.

He tried contact lenses, wearing them at work, and often in bed, but he never got used to them. After half an-hour his eyes began to smart, and finally he gave up. In despair, he was saved for the game by a Brussels optician who designed glasses specially for him with plastic, unbreakable lenses, soft metal frames and leather straps resembling a pilot's helmet to ensure they don't fall off and now with three pairs in his bag when travelling abroad his only disadvantage is a disinclination to fight for the ball in the air. 

When Jurion first appeared in the Anderlecht side, the Belgians were all amateurs, and Jurion, then an outside-right, played purely for pleasure. Lying deep to pick up passes from his defence, Jurion would unbalance his opponent with a feint, steam past him on the outside and then cut in to turn the defence and send a stream of centres into the middle. With big Jeff Mermans then in his hey-day for Anderlecht, the goals came freely, and during Jurion's first three campaigns in the First Division RSC Anderlecht won the championship in 1954, 1955 and 1956. 

Christmas Day, 1955, brought Jurion his first cap at outside right against France. Lining up alongside him were the elite of the old guard; Mermans, Mees, Van Brandt and Houf. Still immature, and facing stiff competition for his place, the caps came irregularly on the wing, at inside-right and several times at wing-half.

In the autumn of 1956 Jurion shared in one of the Belgian's greatest triumphs, the 5-4 Brussels' victory over the Kocsis-Hidegkuti-Puskas Hungarian team, and a few months later came his twelfth centre forward. Originally he wasn't in the side but when the Beerschot striker, Rik Coppens, dropped out through injury, Jurion came in, the first and only time he's played the position.   

In 1959, Anderlecht again won the Belgian championship with Jurion-at outside-right, but a year later, when Frenchman Pierre Sinibaldi arrived to take over as team manager from Englishman Bill Gormlie, a new pattern of play was introduced which finally became an adaptation of 4-2-4.  With Sinibaldi insisting on skill, intelligence and the method, youngsters began to find their way into the team, and Jurion, "too good to be wasted at outside-right", was moved, first to an orthodox up-and-down game at inside-right, and finally lining up at inside-right but falling back to play left midfield link, in Anderlecht's 4-2.4, as Didi had done before him for the World Cup-winning Brazilians in Sweden. 

Now by changing position and also changing his role in the team, Jurion had added considerably to his natural game. By moving inside he gave greater scope to his natural intelligence, and adding a variety of feints to the speed and technical ability he displayed as a winger, he became a more complete player. Always a lover of the ball, and an admirer of the short pass, Jurion's outlook on the game has changed, too, since the arrival of Sinibaldi, who persuaded him to allonger son jeu, to open out his game. Now he follows the run of the ball, almost instinctively, backing up his colleagues and always handily placed to receive a pass from a colleague under pressure. In possession, he feints and dribbles, turning away from opponents to use his body to hide the ball from the enemy and thus make it almost impossible, to tackle him without committing a foul. 

With Anderlecht, Jurion has added three more championships - in 1959, 1962 and 1964 - and taking over as captain.  Last season when left-half Lippens was out through injury, he has regained the captaincy and led RSC through many of their greatest triumphs. Perhaps the greatest achievement was the elimination of Real Madrid from the 1962-63 European Cup, when after a thrilling and surprisingly "open" game in Madrid, Anderlecht earned a 3-3 draw. While others had been    content, before and since, to defend against Real at Chamartin, Les Anderlechtoise attacked, and it paid. 

The second leg, before a capacity 65,000 crowd at the Heysel stadium in Brussels was a nerve twitching affair, brought to a fair conclusion in the eighty-fifth minute when Jurion hammered a twenty-five yard shot past Araquistain for the only goal of thegame, and Real were out, beaten for the first time ever in the preliminary round.

At twenty-eight, Jurion, the complete player, has developed into one of the finest midfield generals in the European game, and under his guidance RSC have begun the season with ten straight wins in the Belgian League. Quite supreme at home, RSC are regarded as the only contender from the north likely to challenge the superiority of the Latins in the Copa Europa and Joseph Jurion, Flemish-born but Latin in temperament and ability, is the master behind it all.  

This article originally appeared in the January 1965 edition of World Soccer