The display case at the FIFA World Football Museum for the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina is dominated by two jerseys: one orange, the other with sky blue and white stripes. Of course, these are the jerseys of the Netherlands and hosts Argentina – the two teams who met in the 1978 Final.

The Dutch jersey was worn by Oranje captain Ruud Krol during the World Cup. The other jersey comes from the Final itself, and was worn by Argentinian midfielder Americo Gallego as he became a world champion. However, the signature on the jersey is not his but that of Dutch striker Rene van de Kerkhof. But who was Rene van de Kerkhof and how did his signature end up on an Argentina jersey?

Rene van de Kerkhof puts in a tackle | ©Imago
Rene van de Kerkhof began his career at FC Twente in the Netherlands with his twin brother Willy. The pair moved to PSV Eindhoven in 1973, where they not only played together successfully for the next ten years but also won numerous titles, including the domestic league and cup and the UEFA Cup.

Yet the biggest prize of all eluded the Van de Kerkhofs. Although they reached two World Cup Finals with the Netherlands – against West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978 – they lost both matches.

While the twins narrowly missed out on a place on the Wall of Champions, Rene is at least represented in the FIFA Museum. He swapped his shirt with Americo Gallego after the 1987 World Cup Final and signed it before donating it to our exhibition a few years ago.

Rene van de Kerkhof, and of course Willy, celebrate their 68th birthdays today. Happy Birthday from the FIFA Museum!