Tony Goossens – Antonio! Antonio! Antonio

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When Berchem Sport played three consecutive seasons in Belgium’s highest football division at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, it did this with a core of players that consisted for almost half of footballers who had come from their own youth set-up. One of the exponents of the youth policy of “the nicest team in town” was goalkeeper Tony Goossens.

With an uncle who had been a soccer player himself before the war at Olympic Charleroi and a father who was in charge of the sports fields of Bell Telephone in Hoboken, the young Tony seemed destined for a sporting career. With only 2 goals against in 16 matches with the U-16, Goossens had a large share in the title that his team captured. However, it was mainly coincidence when he made his debut as the fourth goalkeeper in the first team at the age of 19 during the 1967-68 season. Goossens’ debut did not go unnoticed, being the young goalkeeper he also recorded the fewest goals against in the second division that season. Because Tony was conscripted in the Belgian army the following season and stationed in Germany, the club contracted Antwerp veteran Wim Coremans as their first goalkeeper. During his military service, Goossens would make the long train ride from Soest in Germany to Antwerp every weekend to play with the reserves on Saturday and take his place on the bench on Sunday when the first team played their matches.

Although Coremans would only stay 1 season at the Rooi stadium, it would take until 1971-72 before Tony Goossens became a permanent fixture in goal for the yellow blacks. It would be a triumphal year for both club and goalkeeper: under the leadership of coach Rik Coppens and with the young Ludo Coeck in the team, the Antwerp club became second division champions. Tony Goossens didn’t miss a single minute, only had to take a ball out of the net 16 times in 30 games and was voted best goalkeeper of the second division.

Thanks to a little trickery of his coach, the goalkeeper even managed to score a goal himself during the championship year. Rik Coppens, who could seldom resist a stunt, exchanged on 9 April 1972, in the final stages of the home game against FC Tilleur, midfielder Ludo Coeck for reserve goalkeeper Willy Boden. The latter took his place between the poles while first goalkeeper Goossens was posted as a striker. The predictable happened. After keeping his nets clean all afternoon, Tony scored the 5-0 on the other side of the pitch right at the end of the game. It wasn’t even the first time Goossens playing upfront. Two years earlier Tony Goossens made his debut as a striker in a cup game against Standard Liège.

Berchem Sport and Tony Goossens would remain inseparable until the end of the 1980-81 season. The goalkeeper with the excellent feet, who had been praised for his ability to catch the ball even under pressure, remained a fixture in the Berchem goal for all that time. Unfortunately during his last game for the yellow blacks on the 10th of May 1981, the 33-year-old goalkeeper had to leave the field prematurely with a broken wrist. At that time he had played 387 games in the first team. His last season was forgettable, Berchem Sport relegated to the second division and the fans saw their popular goalkeeper concede 83 goals during the disaster season, including 10 in the 10-1 lost game at Daknam against Lokeren.

Tony Goossens did not want to be relegated with the club for which he had spent his entire career and bought off his contract for the sum of 1.5 million old Belgian francs. The money turned out to be not from his own bankaccount but from the vault at RSC Anderlecht where the Antwerp-born goalkeeper would become the second goalkeeper behind Jacky Munaron. It wasn’t to be a successful decision, as Tony Goossens hardly played at the Astridpark. In his 20 months at the Brussels team the Berchem youth product defended the goal at most 20 times, of which just once with the first team. The battle cry “Antonio! Antonio! Antonio! Antonio!” that had been chanted so many times by the supporters at the Rooi would never sound in the Astridpark. After an interview in Sportmagazine in which he had vented his frustration, Tony Goossens became a persona non grata and left the capital. The goalkeeper returned to his own city where he was given a remarkable amount of playing opportunities in the latter days of his career with the Berchem neighbours of Royal Antwerp FC.

In addition to a number of international games with the military team, Tony Goossens played one international game with the Olympic team in the qualifying tournament for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. As a Berchem-goalie he was also included in the large pre-selection of Guy Thys for the European Championships of 1980 in Italy. Thys however preferred Antwerp’s Theo Custers to join Pfaff and Preud’homme in the final squad.

Sources:
“100 Years of Berchem Sport. Part 2: 1957-2006”. BÖHRER Karl, in-house publication