François Van der Elst

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François Van der Elst
François Van der Elst.jpg
Van der Elst in 1977
Personal information
Full name François Van der Elst
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 7 12 in)
Playing position 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)
National team
1973–1983 Belgium 44 (14)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

François "Swat" Van der Elst (1 December 1954 – 11 January 2017) was a Belgian footballer who played as a right winger.

Club career[edit]

Van der Elst was born in Opwijk, Flemish Brabant. From 1969 to 1980 he played for R.S.C. Anderlecht, with which he would go on to total 82 Belgian Pro League goals, surpassing 100 overall. 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.

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,[1] he finished his career back home, with K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen.

International career[edit]

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 death[edit]

Van der Elst's younger brother, Leo, was also a professional footballer. Both were Belgium internationals.[2]

On 1 January 2017, Van der Elst suffered heart failure and was placed in an induced coma in intensive care.[3] Ten days later, reports emerged that at 3:00 am that morning he had died from a cardiac arrest while still hospitalized, aged 62.[4][5]


New York Cosmos


  1. ^ "Francois Van der Elst". West Ham Stats. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  2. ^ Scholten, Berend (11 January 2017). "Belgium mourns François Van der Elst". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "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.

External links[edit]