By Walter Broeckx
[Please note this article is written in italics for reasons that may or may not become clear later. Please do not adjust your computer.]
Saturday 24 February 1979. The day that changed my life. The day I really started supporting Arsenal.
And to make myself aware that it would be a tough task supporting Arsenal…they lost on that day. 0-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers. So never ever call me a plastic fan. I started supporting a losing team. Albeit it a losing team that was the better team on the day. So I have been used to us losing and being the better team for more than once. In fact from day one. It was Liam Brady on that day who really got me on board. His vision and passes…what a player he was. The Mesut Özil of his day.
So I started my Arsenal trip on that day now more than 37 years ago. But what I didn’t realise or know at that moment was that it would change my life. Following for many many years from afar. Getting closer to the action when the BBC was introduced to our cable TV. And then when pay TV came to Belgium I really got to see them whenever I wanted (or… when the TV stations gave their matches).
With the building of the Emirates I could get tickets again on a regular basis. And by finding the supporters club in Belgium another step in being an Arsenal supporter was made. It was the start of being able to come a few times each season. But with the Emirates also came the barren years. We didn’t win much… apart winning over many hearts all over the world. Our football was a joy to watch and that brought us worldwide many supporters.
But it also brought the moaning. And then it brought…Untold Arsenal. From my first visit to this site shortly after it started I was an avid reader. It set itself apart from other sites where moaning and bitching was and still is a daytime job. Tony was the opposite. Funny and looking at things from a completely different angle. I became a fan of Untold from the first weeks.
And then…I became a writer for Untold myself. Another step in my Arsenal supporting days. A fulfilment of an old dream even. It might look a silly child’s dream long time ago but apart from becoming a professional football player for my local team my other childhood dream was becoming a writer. But not a writer of thick books or anything like that. No a writer of short articles. In Dutch we call them “cursiefjes” and that is literally “italic” in English. Because that is how they were printed in the early days. Blogs avant la lettre if you pardon my French. By the way the football career ended prematurely in hospital.
Tony gave me the chance to become a blog writer or as I still call it for myself a “cursiefjes”-writer. I never really cared about being known to be honest but I found out that in fact by writing for Untold my name became known. I’m not going to say famous as that sounds too pretentious but being recognised when walking in the Emirates or on the streets around the Emirates was kind of strange the first times.
By being a writer on Untold, by starting to write things for the Benelux supporters club I started building up a bit of a name. And so came the next step… I was more or less forced into becoming the first chairman of the official supporters club in Belgium when we changed our name from Benelux to Belgium and the founding president stopped as the president.
So from that day in 1979 I then wasn’t just any Arsenal supporter… No I had become a writer, blogger and was then President of an official Arsenal supporters club. Apart from the daily work it brings (so I realise it all too well that I am the president), I still find it hard to believe at times. I’m just Walter as I have always been Walter. I thought I had reached the top.
But things never seem to stop for me for the moment. And what first started as a joke on Facebook is dragging me to something completely different. Something that wouldn’t have been possible without Arsenal, Untold and the Arsenal Belgium supporters club.
In Belgium we also have a pay TV channel like Sky Sports but here in Flanders it is called Play Sports. And a few of our members started a campaign on Facebook using the hashtag: #walterindestudio. In English it would have been Walter in the TV studio. The campaign took off and it only settled down when Play Sports reacted and said that they would think about it for the derby against Tottenham. That was a few months ago. I thought it was forgotten by most.
But no. Last week a got a phone call from Play Sports. Inviting me to the TV studio for this match. After all the campaigning my members had done…I couldn’t refuse so I said I would accept the invitation.
So next Saturday I will be sitting in the TV studio along with the regular pundits and a member of the Tottenham supporters club in Flanders. The pundits will be Jan Mulder and Marc Degryse. Jan Mulder Father of Youri Mulder and in his playing days at senior level he played for Anderlecht and Ajax. In fact he was on the losing end when Arsenal won the European cup against Anderlecht in 1970. Another pundit will be Marc Degryse. Former Belgian international who played for Club Brugge, Anderlecht then went to Sheffield Wednesday in the 1995-1996 season, then went to PSV, Gent and Germinal Beerschot. Two former top players but not one of them has ever managed a football team. Typical pundits one could say. The Shearers, Carraghers, Owens…. of Belgium and Holland as Mulder is Dutch… And there will be me.
Walter. From Arsenal Belgium. From Untold Arsenal. I really don’t know what is happening to me and believe me I never could have dreamed of ending up live in a TV studio to comment about an Arsenal match on that day in February in 1979. I must say I regularly have to pinch myself to realise I am not dreaming but this is really happening.
People who know me, know that I am not the person who jumps on tables to get attention. But somehow attention is pulling me on the tables it seems. I really don’t know what to expect as I usually turn off the TV when the pundits arrive but now I have to sit there amongst them. Giving how much I have talked about pundits in the past… and now becoming one, even for one day… oh well….
This all wouldn’t have been possible without Arsenal. And most of all without Untold Arsenal. I never realised that supporting Arsenal would lead to me being live on TV one day…. It wasn’t my dream to be on TV but I will try to enjoy the moment as it comes.
PS: Next time I come to London could you make sure that the VIP lane is free for our bus?
PPS: Arsène, Ivan go and have a word with the players and make sure that I will be sitting in the TV studio with the biggest smile on my face after the match. I will never forgive you if we lose this match. Never! Understood?
PPPS: Could you publish the article in italic so I now can be officialy called a cursiefjes (or italic) writer? [You wish is my command Walter, now you are a famous TV personality – Tony]
The Untold Books
The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with a Foreword by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon. Details of this and our previous and forthcoming titles can be found at Arsenal Books on this site.
From the History Society