François Van der Elst

François Van der Elst (1 December 1954 – 11 January 2017) was a Belgian footballer, who mainly won different national and European trophies while at R.S.C. Anderlecht.[1]

François Van der Elst
François Van der Elst.jpg
Van der Elst in 1977
Personal information
Date of birth (1954-12-01)1 December 1954
Place of birth Opwijk, Belgium
Date of death 11 January 2017(2017-01-11) (aged 62)
Place of death Aalst, Belgium
Height 1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Position(s) Winger
Youth career
1965–1969 VCE Mazenzele
1969–1971 Anderlecht
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1971–1980 Anderlecht 243 (82)
1980–1981 New York Cosmos 43 (12)
1981–1983 West Ham United 62 (14)
1983–1986 Lokeren 57 (12)
Total 405 (120)
International career
1973–1983 Belgium 44 (14)
Representing  Belgium
UEFA European Championship
Runner-up 1980
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Early yearsEdit

"Swat" Van der Elst was born in Opwijk, Flemish Brabant. In the youth series of the local team, he always played in midfield but particularly stood out for his dribbling and scoring skills.[2]

Club careerEdit

From 1969 to 1980 he played for Anderlecht. At the age of 16, he made his debut for the senior squad. Despite being drafted in different positions (forward, right winger or full-back), he would go on to total 82 Belgian Pro League goals, surpassing 100 overall. Van Der Elst was praised for scoring decisive goals. In 1976, he was part of the 1975–76 European Cup Winners' Cup-winning squad, netting twice in the final against West Ham United (4–2) and, in the following season's league, was crowned the competition's top scorer at 21 goals as the Brussels side finished in second position. With Anderlecht, he eventually won two national titles and four cups between 1971 and 1980. Van der Elst won the European Cup Winners' Cup twice, in 1976 and 1978, scoring 18 goals in the competition, the 4th most of any player.

In January 1982, after a brief United States spell with the New York Cosmos, Van der Elst signed with West Ham United for £400,000, proceeding to score 17 times in 70 overall appearances.[3] He continued his career back home, with K.S.C. Lokeren, but was forced to end it after a after a fibula fracture substained at the start of the 1985-86 season.[4]

International careerEdit

Van der Elst earned 44 caps and netted 14 goals for Belgium, helping the nation to the second place in the UEFA Euro 1980 tournament. He was part of the squad that competed at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, playing the second halves of the 1–0 win over El Salvador for the first group stage (in Elche) and the 0–3 loss to Poland for the second group phase (Barcelona).

Personal life and deathEdit

Van der Elst's younger brother, Leo, was also a professional footballer. Both were Belgium internationals.[5]

After his career, Van der Elst owned a snooker and billiards bar in his hometown of Opwijk. On New Year's Day 2017, Van der Elst suffered heart failure and was placed in an induced coma in intensive care.[6] Ten days later, reports emerged that at 3:00 am that morning he had died from a cardiac arrest while still hospitalized, aged 62.[7][8]


Hugo Broos, Van Der Elst and Eric Gerets during a training of the national team, 1977
RSC Anderlecht[9]
New York Cosmos





  1. ^ "De carrière van Francois Van der Elst (62)". Sporza (in Dutch). 11 January 2017.
  2. ^ "François 'Swat' Van der Elst (62) overleden: afscheid van een onderschatte topvoetballer". Knack (in Dutch). 11 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Francois Van der Elst". West Ham Stats. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Leo Van der Elst neemt afscheid van broer: "Swat was een goeie gast die veel miserie kende"". Het Nieuwsblad (in Dutch). 11 January 2017.
  5. ^ Scholten, Berend (11 January 2017). "Belgium mourns François Van der Elst". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  6. ^ Hardie, Valerie (3 January 2017). "François Van der Elst in kunstmatige coma na hartaanval op nieuwjaarsdag" [François Van der Elst in artificial coma after heart attack on New Year's Day]. Het Laatste Nieuws (in Dutch). Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  7. ^ "L'ex-Diable rouge François Van Der Elst est décédé à l'âge de 62 ans" [Former red devil François Van Der Elst has died at the age of 62]. Le Soir (in French). 11 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Ex-international François 'Swat' Van der Elst overleden" [Former international François 'Swat' Van der Elst has passed away]. Het Nieuwsblad (in Dutch). 11 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Anderlecht Online - Geschiedenis".
  10. ^ "Francois van der Elst - 1954-2017 | West Ham United".
  11. ^ "HSV and Anderlecht set to renew acquaintances". 26 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Amsterdam Tournament".
  13. ^ "Tournois de Paris : une compétition opposant 4 clubs" (in French). Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  14. ^ Sports+, DH Les (1 October 2018). "Le Trophée Pappaert, c'est reparti!". DH Les Sports +.
  15. ^ a b "History".
  16. ^ "Ex-Anderlecht, Cosmos striker Van der Elst dies". 12 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Red Lions volgen Nina Derwael op met winst van Nationale Trofee voor Sportverdienste". De Standaard.
  18. ^ "Eerste klasse A - Topsc. per seizoen".
  19. ^ "Cup Winners Cup Topscorers". RSSSF. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  20. ^ Dev, Paul. "1978 - Kevin Keegan". France Football.

External linksEdit