Armand Swartenbroeks: Champion of fair play

Sep 20, 2020

Life Stories

Armand Swartenbroeks

Beginnings

Armand Swartenbroeks was born in Laeken, Belgium, in 1892. He became a star player for Daring Brussel, helping them win league championships in 1912 and 1914. Alongside his football career, he studied to become a doctor. Armand was first selected for the Belgium national team in 1913, aged 21. But his life was interrupted by war. When the First World War broke out Armand had just finished his medical studies. He went to the front in West Flanders to treat the wounded. He was co-founder of The Front Wanderers, a football team formed to raise money for soldiers in need.

Champion of Fair Play?

After the war, Armand Swartenbroeks and players of The Front Wanderers were the core of the Belgium team. Armand played 53 times for his country, 37 as captain. At the Inter-Allied Games, in Paris in 1919, Belgium surprisingly lost to Czechoslovakia, but as host country at the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, Belgium won the gold medal, beating Czechoslovakia after huge wins over Britain, France and Yugoslavia. In 1928 Armand became famous by missing a penalty kick on purpose in a match against The Netherlands, because he knew the referee had made a mistake. The Dutch Football Association made him an honorary member, the first foreigner to get such recognition.

Legacy

Armand Swartenbroeks retired from the game in 1930 and devoted the rest of his life to being a doctor. He did a lot for education and for disabled people, often having to overcome political opposition. He became active in politics and was Mayor of Koekelberg from 1956 to 1971. After Armand Swartenbroeks died in 1980, a school was named after him.

Thinking points

Armand Swartenbroeks achieved fame for a small action that showed he had a big heart. He deliberately missed a penalty in an international match because the referee had made a wrong decision. He served on the Western Front in the First World War, founded a football team to raise money to support the wounded, captained his country 37 times, and became an active liberal politician who was for fifteen years Mayor of his municipality in Brussels.

What can Armand Swartenbroek’s story tell us about sportsmanship and how footballers can make a positive contribution to society?

Find out more

Discover more about The Front Wanderers on Meemoo/Het Archief (Flanders Archives). A more detailed account of his life is available (in French) on RTBF. In 2020, a new theatre production entitled “Armand” brings the story of his life to the stage in Belgium.

COVER Image

Football Makes History gathers life stories of unique individuals that help us connect the history of football to diversity and inclusion. The story of Arman Swartenbroeks is one of them.

Armand Swartenbroeks, captain of Belgium, 1928 (Photo: Dutch National Archive).

Life Story

Playing football to help and cure other people.

90

Article Tags:   politics  |   remembrance  |   social history  |   values  |   World War 1

Do you wanna know more?

HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS

Stories

Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.

Videos

Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.

Educational Resources

Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.

Trending Stories

LATEST POST  You may also be interested in

Seen from the Valley

Seen from the Valley

Football in India arose from the presence of British troops, but the game that could unite, was later eclipsed by cricket. A local story from India.

October in Football

October in Football

As the UEFA 2020 European Championships got pushed ahead one year, we provide you with a 365-day #onthisday series of posts to help all fans out there to go back in time, think, and reflect.

Share This