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Football is not just the game; it is about the feeling and the friendship

By Walter Broeckx

Looking back at the cup final day there are a few moments that stand out and that stay more in my memory than others. Not just the football moments of course but the human stories. The strange things that happen on such a day and that make the whole day even more amazing than it was. I just want to share them with you: my stand out moments. So this is not about the goals or match defining moments which I may touch on later if I find the time to have a look at the ref his performance. But about the things that for some inexplicable reason can touch you and stay with you.

The first strange moment happened at my house. In the week before the FA cup final I got a package at my home. Came from Hong Kong. I didn’t order anything so I was surprised to see that package. And when I opened it I was amazed because in the box there were 25 little flags, one big flag and 25 clappers. All with the FA cup final print on it. I contacted a few people in the hope to know where this was coming from but nobody knew. But still I do wonder how this package was send to my home address.

The next moment that stands out is when I left home. It was 8.00 in the morning. The sun was shining. On my way to London. What could go wrong. Well the newsman was saying all disasters happening. But I couldn’t care. And when the news stopped the music started. A band I still love to hear Creedence Clearwater Revival with the song I didn’t want to hear: Bad Moon Rising. For those who don’t know the song I suggest you look up the lyrics. This was not the song I wanted to relate with the day ahead of me.

Where is my lucky memory stick, put it on Walter put it on. My lucky memory stick is the stick with my favourite music on it. And the stick that has accompanied me on my successful trips to any Arsenal match this season. Win-win!!! I changed to my memory stick, looked up for the song I always started with on such days: ‘Rocking all over the world’ from Status Quo. Nah that would chase away the bad moon rising I hoped. Next song on the playlist was and is Stairway to Heaven….

So just look at the sequence in the songs. Bad moon rising clearly visible in the first 10 minutes, but I didn’t listen to the end and the rocking all over the world song was Arsenal taking over and rocking the place with their comeback to 2-2. And stairway to heaven… that was the Ramsey goal of course that send us to heaven. Make note to myself: never ever leave that memory stick at home when you go to watch an Arsenal match.

A moment that I also found very interesting was when we arrived in London after an horrendous trip that took us through the centre of London. Stupid GPS in Ford vehicles…. But when we got there we could park some 30 meters away from the Tollington. Amazing as in normal match day circumstances you cannot park there without being a local resident. But we could.

When we were preparing ourselves for going to the Emirates I distributed the flags to my travelling companions. Within seconds the passing people, all Arsenal supporters, asked me: where did you get this from? How much do you ask for it? Well the first question would have been too long to answer so I ignored it. The second question was answered with you can have it for free. I didn’t order it and in Belgium the law is that if someone sends you something you didn’t order you can keep and don’t have to pay for it.  [Careful Walter, that’s not the law in England and Wales, so best not to tell anyone.  Woops.]

And suddenly people came from all directions also asking for a little flag. I gave them all away and they were gone in seconds. Even a car stopping by asking for flags. I surely didn’t realised that I was having gold in my hands. I could have sold them I think but to see the face of the kids when they had the FA cup final flag in their hands was priceless. I think they will hold them as a dear memory for a while. Telling their mates: hey look I got a FA cup final flag from when Arsenal won their first trophy again. Probably adding the number of years as the whole world has been made aware of it for a while.

For anyone interested: I forgot to give away the clappers. So if anyone wants inflatable clappers with the FA cup final print on it. Just let me know.  [Walter – just don’t give these to anyone who comes within 20 yards of me – Tony]    The big flag was kept by me. And will be kept for as long as I am a part of this world. Hell I might even ask to be buried with it. Nah, that’s probably a bit too dramatic. I hope to get many more flags before I eventually will pass away one day.

Another moment that I will not forget lightly was at the end of the match. The faces filled with joy, relieve, proud, unbelief, … it all was there. I have seen a picture of myself just outside the Emirates after the match. And I have never seen myself with such a happy face. Never.

But when the final whistle had gone the people in the Emirates went completely crazy. And lots of them tried to run on to the field. The stewards tried to stop them but there was no stopping them. Thousands rushed on the field in celebration and jumped around as if the pitch was one big trampoline. The speaker in the Emirates warned them that they would cut off the screening if they didn’t leave the pitch but it was not making a big impression to the ones on the field.

At first I thought: oh well they are not hurting anyone and the groundsman will be able to get the grass back in order in the next months. But after a few minutes of asking to leave the field and threats to end the screening the screens suddenly went black. They actually did it. Now the people in the stands suddenly became furious. We had been waiting for 9 years and now we could miss the most important moment of it all: seeing us actually lift the damn thing.

So we started shouting OFF, OFF, OFF but I think at first the ones on the pitch didn’t get the message at all. I think they were too busy jumping around to notice the screens were down. But then came the bobbies to the rescue. Do they still call them bobbies by the way? I remember from learning English that we had a full lesson about the police in England and that their nickname was ‘bobbies’ (I made a rather amusing typing error when typing his as I added an ‘o’ too much and I suddenly saw I typed something completely different).

Anyway Bobby, thanks for clearing the pitch. It was done in a rather controlled way. No brute force. Just a circle around the biggest screen and then moving to the side line and ordering people to get off. And they did it then and then Arsenal could put the screens back on. Just in time to see Hull pick up their losers’ medals. So we could see the players running up the stairs and could see Wenger enjoying the moment.

Running on the pitch can be dangerous. One young man hurt himself so bad he had to be taken off on a stretcher. I think it was the Walcott stretcher. Because after being in serious pain for a while he suddenly realised the similarity with Walcott. Not that there were coin throwing Tottenham fans to be seen but he suddenly held up his hands and fingers like Theo did at the start of our cup run.

When back on the streets after the match it was one big noisy affair. People signing songs, going to the pub where they tried to get in but the pubs were packed completely. We had to leave London rather quickly after the match. And as we feared problems on the road near the Emirates we decided that we should leave in order to be on time for our shuttle train.

Driving down on Holloway Road was amazing. Or better said crawling down Holloway road. The reason was jubilant Arsenal supporters taking the road and marching up to whatever direction they went. I heard on the radio later on something about Seven Sisters Road. Isn’t that the road leading up to ….yeah.

When the passing Gooners saw a foreign car filled with Gooners they came over to us, singing, clapping hands, high fives were given, you know the silly things you do when you have just won a cup. The streets were red as they should be. In fact it was rather amazing that after leaving Holloway Road and some 5 minutes further down the road it suddenly was very quiet. An amazing contrast that struck me.

After the stupid GPS send us back to Tower Bridge we had a long drive to the shuttle. It was getting a bit frustrating as the highway to Folkestone was interrupted around Maidstone and we lost at least half an hour when we had to follow all kinds of divertion signs.

But the icing on the cake was when we finally arrived at Folkestone. We saw a sign that there were some interruptions but had no idea on what big they were. We should have been on the shuttle from around 23.50. And now we were told that we had to wait till 6.50. So we had to spend the night in the terminal at Folkestone.

In a way we just couldn’t care about it. The feelings of happiness was so overwhelming at that point that if they would have told us we had to wait another 24 hours we just would have done so. Ok, not really but I couldn’t give a toss about it. I ate some food from Starbucks as that was the only thing that was open still. A warm bacon sandwich, a cold chicken salad sandwich and a hot coffee with lots of sugar. Just under £10. Waiting for the train…so what. We just won the FA cup. No matter what,  I was still in heaven.

We found out that one tunnel could not be used and that all the trains had to go through the other tunnel. And just when we found a good place to lie down in some comfortable sofa we were told we could be on the next shuttle. That was around 3.00 am. Well it was better than the 6.50 train but as a result I didn’t sleep apart from some 10-15 minutes. And I still feel it now. Days later. Getting older I think.

I know this sounds all small things. But they are part of the memory of the day. In fact there are many more but I had to stop somewhere.

But the story they tell is that being an Arsenal supporter is much more than the things happening on the field. It is about being connected with people all over the world. It is a bond with people you do not know but who just like you sit in anticipation, with fear, with high hopes, going through the same emotions just like you. Thousand miles away from where I am. They all have their little memories about that day. Nothing really special about them when you look at them on their own. But they all are a part of that special day in London when we won the cup after an amazing come back. Memories that would remain untold if I hadn’t become a writer on Untold. Good memories.

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21 comments to Football is not just the game; it is about the feeling and the friendship

  • oldgroover

    Sounds like it was your special day. FYI, Arsenal own Seven Sisters Road from The Nags Head to Manor House, form then on to Seven Sister underground it’s Spurs road. Very interesting history .

  • Shard

    Beautifully written Walter. I was absorbed in reading it from start to finish, visualising everything you described. I wish I could have been there, but this really was the next best thing. Thank you.

  • Kelser

    I don’t know if you were joking or not but I would absolutely love one of those clappers and will gladly pay the cost of post and packaging! So let me know, and we can sort something out! 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    Kelser,
    my wife is urging me to remove them from the living room. 😉 She is a really nice women but not football minded at all so she doesn’t really understand such things but in general she is as understanding as can be. But not at the cost of her living room 🙂

    So I will gladly give them away to make her happy ;)I think I could put them in an envelop. Will check later this evening and then get back to you. Behind the scenes.

    So it is me throwing them away or sending them to people who want them… But make sure you don’t live near Tony 🙂

  • FinnGooner

    Nice story Walter. I have to say that when we were 2-0 down I was thinking “WAlter is in London we never lose when he is at Emirates” and kept telling that to my iPad while listening the match from Arsenalplayer (I had turned streaming site off since I remembered last time I had watched stream we had lost so could not take the risk and just listened).

    If you decide selling those clappers I could buy one (at least postal even more). I don’t live near Tony (unless he has moved away from UK). I could put it next to my Belgian flag 😉

  • TommieGun

    This has been such a nice read, Walter.

    Winning the cup had a personal on my family as well – it was the first time my eldest son saw Arsenal win anything. He is 5 years old.

    He knew that his grandpa was there in Wembley, and kept asking me to call him on the phone, and was a bit disappointed that grandpa couldn’t answer.

    * I don’t know if any of you have 5 year olds, or better yet do you remember how they were at that age. As for my boy, he is yet to get the true sense of what is loyalty. On the other hand, he is (like other 5 year olds) very sincere. So when I ask him – “T, who do you support?” He says – “whoever plays best”. To which I reply – “that’s ok, as long as it’s not in England and as long as Arsenal comes first”.

    So we supported a bit of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this year, but still made sure to make fun of Mourniho (T makes a very good impression of him complaining, by the way).

    But we had a little bit of a crisis: after losing 1-0 to Stoke, he told me – “that was so lame from YOUR team”. I’m telling you: I’d rather sit in a pub, being served warm beer, with flat screens showing ManUre’s winning moments for eternity, than have to hear my son say something like that. It felt wretched.

    So yeah, winning something for my glory hunting 5 year old became in issue.

    The match started horribly. And after 5 minutes I kept saying how I can’t believe this. T was calm.

    Then came Santi’s goal and we both jumped.

    After the first penalty incident he started jumping, yelling “penalty!”. When it was not called, he looked at me and said – “why didn’t the ref call it?”

    After the second penalty incident he didn’t jump. He said – “dad, that’s the wrong ref. He is not the right ref for this match”.

    After the third penalty incident he didn’t say anything.

    Fast forward to Gibbs’ chance and Giroud’s header rattling the bar. T was sure that we were cursed with bad luck because it’s not possible that we had 1 million chances and that Hull had 2 chances and that it’s still a draw.

    And then, ET. “No T. You don’t have to go to sleep just yet” (and it was way past his bedtime).
    He asked what’s going to happen if ET ends with no goals, and was quite excited to learn that he will not have to go to bed in the event of a penalty shootout.

    Then Ramsey started taking all of those shots all by himself, and T said that he is not being considerate and should let his friends have a go at goal as well.

    And then Ramsey scored. And we started jumping. And screaming. And singing. And dancing.

    And that was probably one of the best moments ever.

    EPILOGUE

    We spoke to grandpa the day after, there was no reception @ Wembley…

    I think that next year I’ll take T to his first match. He already wants to go.

  • WalterBroeckx

    This sums it all up rather nicely from arsenal.com http://player.arsenal.com/player/5130-fa-cup-mini-movie

  • WalterBroeckx

    Wow Tommiegun, you should have send this to Tony as an article.
    My God it is a long time since my children were 5 but I seem to remember a bit of such things. Not watching Arsenal together as in those days even I couldn’t watch it live.
    I think I will have to wait till I have my grandchildren to experience such a thing. I already intent to tell to my children when they have little kids: just bring them over on Saturday afternoon so you can do some shopping. And then I will make sure they start supporting the right team. But as my children support Arsenal also it will be not a big task I think.

    Thanks for sharing that

  • WalterBroeckx

    Finngunner,
    For a moment I was down when they went 2-0 up.
    But in such cases I go back to memory lane and start thinking: have I had this before? And immediately I thought back of that CL match in Belgium in Liège. We were 2-0 down after a few minutes and the city of fire as Liège is called was on fire.
    But we came back and won 3-2. So I held on to that memory and lo and behold…the outcome was the same this time.

    and about the clappers I will have a look on how I can send them. I think they could fit in a regular envelop. so you will understand you will have to fill them with air yourselves 😉 There is a little pipe in the pack, don’t worry

  • FinnGooner

    @TommieGun that was nice story. I was home alone most of the match my parents came little before our 2nd goal (they came for visit so I could not go out and they are not fans). We did have sparkling wine (from Russia) to celebrate after we won from my best crystal glasses.

    @Walter since I think we have some air in Finland filling clappers will not be problem 😉 actually it might be better as if it is normal lettersize it can be delivered at my home, if it is bigger I have to go to pick it up from post (and that is not so close). But whatever is easiest for you will do fine.

  • blacksheep63

    Thanks Walter, it made me think (in this anniversary year) that “there is some corner of the Holloway Road that is forever Belgian” 🙂

  • Gianni Dioro

    Walter, I didn’t realise you had gone to the Emirates to watch the match on the big screens. I thought you were at Wembley. You are a true fan!!

    Do you have any photos to share?

  • Gianni Dioro

    Found this on youtube: Fans Invade the Pitch at the Emirates
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAg-yx_rSZY

  • Rantetta

    Walter
    You know I love reading the stories of your travels, especially when they concern Arsenal. Your wonderful piece is up there with all the others I’ve savoured over the years. Thanks.

    My heart is joyful for having read about a package from Hong Kong. And then – what a way you distributed its contents. Beautiful!

    I can’t blame the fans for going on the pitch. It may be naughty but there was such an outpouring of love happening, I think. Thanks for the video, Gianni D.

    The road trip, the fans in the streets, the Starbucks with high prices for crapfood, the ferry not leaving… It’s all a fantastic adventure. And I’m glad you had it, and shared it.

  • That was a really lovely piece. I’m a woman who is 51 years old and I have been an Arsenal fan for 42 of those years. I love my team and for me there is no other manager on this earth as good as Aresne Wenger. I have been following your site for quite a while now and I love reading it as you see this team for all that it is and stand by our manager. Thank you so very much for all your reports and very much respect to all of you. If it is possible sir may I also have a clapper if you have any left if not thank you very much anyway.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    Where is my flag?
    I had these items sent to you because I could not make it to Europe.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    Seriously, I would love a clapper.
    Let me know how to cover for postage, etc…
    And, yes, I have a checkbook in Euros.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Very nice ,Walter , you always could tell a heart warming ( and occassionally wrenching ) tale or too. Thanks .

  • WalterBroeckx

    I checked it last night and I can put the clappers in a regular envelop and could post them over.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I will contact those who asked for them so check your mail in the next days. That is if the mail address you have given is correct of course

  • Gord

    I don’t know who is providing the GPS for Ford vehicles, but the OS for Ford vehicles comes from Redmond, Washington (M$). That might be why it is not so good. It kind of looks like there is a reasonable chance that Linux will be the OS of choice for automobiles. Which will likely result in software behaving similar across different car manufacturers.