The "Snake Man"
Sep 14, 20
There are few dreams bigger for a football player that scoring a World Cup goal. Imagine hearing the roar of the crowd as your shot sails past the goalkeeper and into the net. It’s a feeling only 1,250 footballers have experienced, and for Pieter Robert Rensenbrink, it was a particularly record-breaking feat.
Rensenbrink, or the “Snake Man,” as he was known, was born in Amsterdam on July 3, 1947. The son of a shipyard worker, he aspired to work as a carpenter and spent his childhood playing soccer in the streets. When it came to football, he had a natural talent and impressive dribbling ability that helped him stand out from a very young age. His humble beginnings with the Amsterdam club DWS were followed by bigger gains in Belgium’s Club Brugge. It was there he won the Belgian Cup in 1970 at the age of 18. He went on to play for Anderlecht at the start of the club’s golden age, followed by two Belgian leagues (1972 and 1974).
He earned five Belgian Cups (1970, 1972, 1973, 1975 and 1976), two top scorer cups (Jupiler Pro League in 1973 and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1978) and two UEFA Super Cups (in 1976 and 1978). He also received the Belgian Golden Shoe in 1976 and the Ballon d'Or runner-up (behind Franz Beckenbauer) the same year, along with the Bronze Ball in 1978.
Considered one of the best players in Belgian football history, Rensenbrink scored 248 goals in 540 games throughout his career. Many believed he would succeed Johan Cruyff on the Dutch national team, for which he played 46 games and scored 12 goals, half of which were in the World Cup. The first was in Germany in 1974, but it was the 1978 World Cup in Argentina where he truly made his mark. After scoring a hat-trick in the opening game against Iran, he scored again against Scotland, marking the 1000th goal in World Cup history.
Sadly, Resenbrink died of spinal muscular atrophy at the age of 72 earlier this year. He will forever be remembered not only for his swift and “snake-like” playing style, but also for coming within a goalpost’s width of winning that 1978 World Cup. Despite the team’s loss that day, Resenbrink’s memory will live on through his remarkable, history-making career. He may have been an introverted character, but he let his talent speak for itself. It’s no wonder Pele recognized him as one of the best 125 players of all time.