What drags me to football in London?

By Walter Broeckx

What is it that drags you to London people ask me sometimes.

Well I must confess that you can call me an Anglophile in a way or should it be a “Londonphile” or “Arsenalphile”. From the first moment I set foot in London, I felt at home. It’s just a feeling I got. I instantly knew how the underground worked, just the cueing for a taxi or a bus was a bit strange at first. In our country when the bus comes we all just run to that bus and the one with the strongest elbows is first on the bus. When you see the discipline you lot have it is really disgusting behaviour in our country.

But one of the things that attracts me most in London, apart from the Arsenal,  is the people. Is it just me that attracts it or is it just the people in London but I always seem to have an encounter with some persons that you can call interesting.

On our first school trip we met a nice friendly person, whom we spilt drink on his boots in the hotel bar, but he was a nice chap who gave us some nice tips to do some shopping and gave us his own address, he had a shop and we got some discount from him.  On that school trip we went to speakers corner to see how freedom of speech looks like in London and I must say I really found it amazing.

On another trip  we were having a snack in a McDonald and there was an older couple, some 75 years, who sat there like a young couple in love. It was such a nice thing to see that old couple romancing each other after all those years… it really touched me. I then always start imagine a story round those people with love, misery and a happy end.

About the food in London just  this, we only know the quarter pounders from the Little Wonder over the Armoury and the McDonald food. A day to the Emirates is a junk food day.

Last time we had a very long chat with the person who is sitting at the entrance of the Arsenal museum. He also gave us tips on where to eat, what to do, how to do. We exchanged our thoughts on the team, the players and certainly over Vermaelen and how good he was after he heard we came from Belgium. You really get the feeling that you are welcome in London by most of the people.

But one of the most intriguing persons I have met was some 4 trips ago. We then decided to walk  from Kings Cross to the Emirates. A nice walk and for most Gooners a thirsty walk. So we stopped at a petrol station to allow some of us to get a drink. And there he came from across the  street. You couldn’t recognise him at first. He had lost a lot of weight. He was wearing glasses and a hat. And he was older to. He was wearing a long green raincoat.

So he came up to us and asked us if we were going to see the Arsenal. Well it was a rather silly question I thought because when you see some 20 people all in red and white shirts you can bet that they are not going to some Black hole Lane in London. “I used to go there to” he said. “But now no more. I do performances”, he said.” Do you want to hear it ?” Well we just stood on the pavement waiting for our friends to come out of the shop so yes why not.

So he steadied himself and started singing:

“Are you lonesome tonight, Do you miss me tonight, are you sorry we drifted apart, does your memory stay,  to a bright summer day, when I kissed you and call you sweetheart.”

We all stood there with open mouth…..My God Elvis is alive and he lives in London. He did his best to stay incognito but he needed that last performance on that pavement in London and he gave it to us. So we gave him a round of applause but then really had to go.

We almost missed the beginning of the game that day, but that day we discovered that Elvis still is alive and kicking and living in London. It  was one of the best things that ever happened on my trips to London and Arsenal. So if you see an old man with a green raincoat and a hat and glasses, be nice to him, after all it might be Elvis.

MAKING THE ARSENAL: The novel that describes the foundation of the modern Arsenal 100 years ago is available through www.emiratesstadium.info and via Amazon.  However Amazon appear to have sold out of their copies already, and are showing “waiting for stock” again.  You can get quick delivery from the above link – and have the book signed by the author if you want.   We have sent Amazon more stock – and if you are on their site, please do review the book.

WOOLWICH ARSENAL: The day to day activities – and the fight for survival – of our club 100 years ago, recorded on the daily blog: www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk Today:  How many games can you lose and still win the league.

(c) Hamilton House Mailings plc 2009.  This article may not be reprinted in whole or part without written permission of the copyright owners and full acknowledgment of the author and UNTOLD ARSENAL.  All enquiries to Tony@Hamilton-House.com or call (during UK office hours) 01536 399 013.

20 Replies to “What drags me to football in London?”

  1. That was a wonderful piece Walter. I especially loved the Elvis sighting. I’ll keep an eye out for him in future!

  2. Just forgot that you also have an Elvis in England… Elvis Costello…. Yes it was the Elvis from Graceland, Tenessee… I’m still sure of it….

  3. Another entertaining piece, Walter. Nice Elvis sighting too. The Arsenal alone is enough by itself to drag anyone to football in London.

  4. Walter – There is a really nice Tapas restaurant on Holloway Road, a few doors down is an Indian that I have been told is superb. A Burger or Hot Dog before the game is fine but after a few drinks and a nice (but not necessarily expensive) meal sets off a great day.

  5. Elvis is alive and well, holed up near Kings Cross!

    Walter, you should try the Blackstock Road / Highbury Grove / Upper Street walk back from the ground. Depends how long you have, but with a stop in every third pub you should be able to get in plenty of beer on the way back to the Angel, in many entertaining boozers. And a bite to eat if you’re lucky too!

    Suggested stops: Bank of Friendship / Highbury Barn / Hen & Chickens / Compton Arms / Hope & Anchor / Camden Head / The York.

  6. Desperate?? Not quite sure of your definition of the word there, Gerald.

    As a bona-fide London boy I’m just thrilled that you have found this city and its polyglot inhabitants so accommodating and friendly. Many would have you convinced the opposite is true.

    I agree with Walter though, I’ve always found this city to be very warm – full off character and characters.

    Better news on Gibbs, though it doesn’t sound as though he’ll be back for the Chelsea game. :0(

    As for Henry’s blatant cheating – he has let himself down there and Ireland can count themselves deeply unfortunate. Will Platini now wade in and pillory Henry for cheating as he did with Eduardo for diving when Celtic were put out of the CL? What’s that you say? Platini is French?


  7. nice read…reminded me of my time in London..I visited London last year for about 5 days…came down there from India to watch the Arsenal-Wigan game in December..i must tell you the walk from the Arsenal underground station to the Emirates was one awesome experience..

  8. Great article Walter! Lovely read. I still hope to come to London sometime (hopefully soon!) and besides seeing the Arsenal of course, possibly bumping Elvis!

  9. Well jonny I think I have visited London more then 10 times, closer to 20 I think, since my first visite. Sometimes just for a day but also visited with the family and stayed a few days to visit some museums and other intresting places. It was and is always great to be there. And whenever I had to ask something the people always were very friendly and helpfull.
    You can get lucky with this once or twice but not all the time I guess. So I think most people are nice when you make contact with them. You will have exeption but I never ran in to one of them.

    Now I must say that despite me living almost in a forrest now, I was a city kid in my youth and I love the smell of a city and always will.

    In fact if I would have retired one day I really wouldn’t mind moving to London. But I don’t think I can convince my wife for such a move…..

    On the TH handball… I agree he let himself down and I even feel he let us down. I think this action will haunt him for the rest of his carreer and will throw a shadow on his immense carreer. As he always will be remembered as a Gunner… I’m not so happy with it. As it was a very important goal it will be remembered for a long time as this wouldn’t be the case if France would have won 4-0 or so.

    And Platini will probably say: I didn’t see it from where I was sitting. 😉 And I think he will shut up about it for the rest.

  10. Got to say Walter, i liked your insights regarding the london trip it reminds me of all I’ve lost since i relocated to the midlands.

    On the TH handball, it does not bother me one way or the other as this was a match between France and Ireland, so whatever happned has nothing to do with me or my club, i’ve got to mention those head jobs on Talkshit Radio who are milking the thing for all they can get, however when our media start whining and god like I all ways say this, remember Peter Crouch pulling the dread locks of the T & T player to score a goal for England?? people in glass houses springs to mind!!!

  11. Sorry, I have to disagree with all this “he let himself down and I even feel he let us down. I think this action will haunt him for the rest of his carreer and will throw a shadow on his immense carreer” garbage with regard to Henry.

    No it will not haunt him. No it will not throw a shadow over his career. Sportsmen try to stretch rules. Sportsman try to do everything they can to win. Had Henry NOT made a move with his hand for that ball and had it gone out of play and France ended up losing, NOW THAT WOULD HAVE HAUNTED HENRY FOREVER!!!! Thierry would have spent the rest of his life thinking “what if I’d thrown my hand out there, maybe the referee would have missed it.”

    When I was playing sports I was always told to try as much as I could and leave it up to the referee to set the standards. I was an open-side flanker at Rugby and in that position you are basically taught to cheat, and to stretch the rules, and to test the referee. In all sports you do what you can to win, SO LONG AS IT DOESNT PHYSICALLY HARM THE OPPONENT.

    It is up to the referee to see these things. It is up to modern sports to use modern technology to help officials.

    What happened last night was not the fault of Henry. He is an athlete trying to do what he can to win. ALL ATHLETES DO THAT.

    What happened last night is the fault of the referee.

  12. Walter, it is very interesting to hear your stories of visits to London and Arsenal’s home area. They bring a lotta joy to my heart.

    I speak as an Aussie, transplanted to London, who in Islington and Holloway has found my spiritual home.

    This is home. Land of the Gooners, home of the free (and free flowing football!). I’d find it hard to live anywhere else in the world, to be honest! 🙂

  13. Maybe I look to much as a ref to these things. I do think every time in SA when TH touches the ball reporters will be saying: remember. Well not always but I think we will hear it a lot of times.
    Maybe I’m a bit to much occupied on winning fair? The ref in my would be disgusted if I found out that I had missed it. I really think the ref will feel bad about it, but his position was like it should be but at the end of the day even a ref cant see through a body let alone several bodys.

    Must say that since the Maradonna handballs (yes twice) I really didn’t like him anymore. Not because of the handball was against England, found it a disgrace who ever was the opponent. I really wanted Germany to win that final in that WC, just to punish them but they got away with it at the end to my dissapointment. But thats the way it goes.

    So if one of my heroes does a thing like that I’m dissapointed for this.

    At the end of the day the ref should have punished it, but he didn’t cause he couldn’t see it. Sorry Bac, William, Abou, Samir and Gael but now I really hope that France get beaten in SA and comes home after the first round. This would be a good thing for Arsenal as well in fact.

  14. Walter – totallly agree with everything you say there. My point is that this is something that goes on with players all the time. Players cheat, sometimes (perhaps most of the time) instinctively (throw a hand out, dive over a tackle etc.) and sometimes planned. It happens.

    It is up to the referee to sort it out, whether by himself or preferably using video technology. How easy would it have been for the referee, the moment the goal went in, to call up to the video referee and ask “hey mate, just want to confirm everything looked okay on that goal” and for the video ref. to say “hey, obvious handball, no goal, free-kick to Ireland, put 5 seconds back on the clock”.

    Easy. It would have taken no more time than France’s celebrations did anyway. The videos could be replayed over the big screen so that the 80,000 fans see the evidence as well and know why the decision was made.

    Putting all this vitriol on Henry simply moves the debate away from where it should be. This should be a debate on using technology and the role of the referee, not a debate about a player doing what EVERY player does in the heat of the moment.

  15. And another thing: All this whingeing about the handball being ‘cheating’ as if this is the worst crime ever perpetrated.

    I say who cares. Worse crimes in football go unpunished (and un-heralded), legs get broken, thuggish defenders resort to rugby tackling to stop attackers clear-through on goal. And these players aren’t condemned by the greater public and media like Henry has been. Nor are those players as forthcoming about owning up to having done something amiss as Henry has been.

    The Ireland team just need to deal with getting knocked out of the World Cup. They weren’t good enough to take the chances they had and that was that. Who knows what would have happened had the penalty against Given been given? Perhaps some of the furore would have been avoided (with no extra time required as the score would have been final in that case).

  16. I agree with Edwardo. I do not see diving and things like Henry last night as major problems for football, despite what Sky Sports and the media want us all to believe. Those things could be gotten rid of largely with video replay and more decisive refereeing.

    I see dangerous tackling and shirt pulling (that is cheating, yet EVERY defender does it, why is there no outcry when that is planned and persistent cheating?????????) as far worse for the game. Yet they are pushed to the back because of the “crime” of a player falling over or putting a hand up in the heat of the moment, instinctively, to try and win.

    To me it is no contest which ones are worse for the game and which should be dealt with.

  17. Lets agree on that. Every foul is a foul and should be treated the same. But in some cases the ref(s) dont see it and errors are made. I dont think TH on the field thinking: “hey, lets cheat a bit today”. The ball went over all the other players and in an instictive movement he handled the ball. Keane made a handball also but the ref spotted it and blew. I’m very sure that if the ref would have seen it, he would have blown. I think he had a rather good gam (what I saw of it anyway) and it was not an easy game with a lot of players always around the ball.
    So indeed for matches of those huge intrests : call in video evidence for once and for all. Like mentionned it took only a few replays to see the clear handball.
    Refs at that level can now talk about anything: “hey did you see that nice lady on the second row with that sexy dress” so why shouldn’t it be possible to say: ‘ref, you missed a clear handball, disallow the goal’

    And btw: Who says France wouldn’t have won in the end even without that goal ? But if your Irish I can understand the dissapointment.

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