A midfielder for Breda side NAC, Kees Rijvers left the Netherlands for France in 1950 to become a professional player - a Dutch pro league would not be founded until 1954. There he played with Saint-Étienne (during three spells) and Stade Français, winning the French title with Saint-Étienne in 1957 and the French Cup in 1962. In between, he also played for Feyenoord, and closed out his career for NAC. During that period, he also played 33 matches for the national team, scoring 10 times. With Faas Wilkes and Abe Lenstra, Rijvers formed a well known trio in Dutch football history.
Rijvers then embarked on a successful coaching career. With PSV Eindhoven, he won three Dutch titles (1975-76 and 1978) and claimed the UEFA Cup (1978). After an unsuccessful adventure in Belgium, Rijvers was made coach of the Dutch national team in 1981. He failed to qualify Oranje for the 1982 World Cup and Euro 1984; the latter after a controversial 12-1 victory by Spain over Malta that eliminated the Dutch on goal difference. Rijvers then turned to more technical functions behind the scenes at FC TWente and PSV, although he briefly functioned as interim coach for the Eindhoven team in 1994.