Vale Sjel (Mike) de Bruyckere
Sjel (Mike) de Bruyckere (1928–2011)
Sjel de Bruyckere was born in Kaatsheuvel in Holland on 6 February 1928. He played football for his local club as a junior but in 1950 was chosen by Willem II in Tilburg, where he helped the club to win two of the three First Division titles achieved since its foundation. He played 167 games for the club and scored 80 goals. He was selected for Dutch national team and was a regular from 1952 to 1955, representing his country eight times in all, playing his first international for Holland against Belgium scoring on debut assisting the Dutch to a 4-3 victory. He was the most capped player in Willem II’s history at the time. A grandstand at the club was named after him recently and his picture appears as the centerpiece in the Fan Shop more than fifty years after he left Holland.
De Bruyckere’s last game before coming to Australia was an international watched by 65 000 spectators. His first game in Australia was in Geelong before fifty spectators and assorted cows that were shooed from the paddock before kick-off. The story goes that he was full of admiration when he saw the many thousands of people headed along the Princes Highway to Geelong not realising they were actually going to Kardinia Park to watch the Geelong VFL game and not the soccer.
As a professional De Bruyckere was not eligible to represent Australia at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, along with many of the best players in the country, including Joe Marston. He did receive a cap for his new country at a time when Australia played very few international games and many of these were against club teams. De Bruyckere played for Australia against the Eastern Athletic club from Hong Kong on 10 August 1957 at Olympic Park and scored the winning goal in a two-one victory.
In June 1964 while De Bruyckere was player-coach at Melbourne Hungaria, he formed one of the early football players’ associations, a predecessor of the current Professional Footballers Australia.
De Bruyckere coached a number of clubs including Wilhelmina (later called Ringwood City), Ringwood United, Lions, Polonia,George Cross, Green Gully and Prenston Makedonia.. In later life he coached children at various levels imparting his skills and the love of the game. The current best & fairest award at Ringwood City is named in honour of Sjel (Mike) de Bruyckere.
Outside football de Bruyckere had always been a physical education teacher and he continued in that role long after he hung up his boots, primarily at Box Hill and Mitcham technical schools.
FFV is truly saddened to learn of Sjel (Mike)'s passing, and would like to pass our sincere condolences on to his family.