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July 2021

49 a real Arsenal number, but less is better.

By Walter Broeckx

It’s morning. At first sight like every other morning in the year. You wake up. Feel still tired from the whole week working. You look outside and I do have the most beautiful view from my bedroom window. On a sunny (yes sunny) morning like this. I see the green leaves of summer waving in the wind. A clear blue sky above the green trees makes it a perfect painting.

I hear the birds singing their love songs. After all this is the season called spring and all the birds should be making love to each other. I know some 5 meters from my home a bird has already began breading on its egg and I am curious when we will see the new little bird coming out. The advantages to live in a rather rural environment.

And then it comes. With a brutal shock. It hits you in the face and knocks you out. 1..2..3…4………10. KO. And as if that wasn’t enough it hits you in the stomach. You think you will probably never be able to eat anything again in the next months. It kicks you against the shins. And believe me when you don’t have shin pads and I usually don’t wear them when I am in bed you want to scream as loud as you can.

And if all that wasn’t enough it goes to the place no man wants it to go. Yes it kicks you right in your manhood and you wish you were never born at that moment.

How can this morning that started in such an idyllic way suddenly turn in to such a nightmare where you seem to be struggling for your live? No, it’s not a burglar. No it’s not some idiots who want to kill people just for the kicks.

The only thing that entered my bedroom on this beautiful (it will probably rain later today) morning is the enormous thought on there being no Arsenal games this week. And next week. And the week after the next week. And the… HELP! What a disastrous prospect.

Ok I admit. I might have slightly exaggerated a bit. But still it felt strange to wake up last weekend and not having to think about the game later that day. Not having to think about the opponents. And their strengths and weaknesses. Or about will Mikel be fit? Will Jack be able to play despite his injury? How long is the suspension from Giroud?

No more thinking of whether FC Bale will do his usual bit, scoring in the last minutes and keeping the pressure on. It’s all gone for the moment. And entering my bedroom came the big empty black hole called the summer recess. Now we knew it would come eventually. But still it gets me each morning before I am prepared for the absolute horror of the occasion.

Strange to think how I (and I think many others) live on the waves of a football season. We mourn the lows. We celebrate the highs. We gnash our teeth when we draw. We feel angry when one of our defenders slips and we concede a goal. And find it jolly funny when one of theirs does the slipping and we score.

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We put a team together and then see that the manager is clueless as he picked a few other players. Or … well probably it is the other way round. We discuss who should play as real football managers experts. Well we play the game version anyway. We say how to defend. No zonal marking please. That was the word at the start of the season. I notice that those experts have gone a bit quite now our defensive record is much better than last season. Maybe the ones at Arsenal who did it that way, knew a bit better than the eternal complainers?

But no use in thinking those thoughts for the moment. Most players lay on their bums to enjoy their summer holidays. Apart from those who still have to play a few stupid friendly games with their national teams and god forbid they get injured over there. Please.

Ah but there was the Champions league final you might say. Well to be honest I did this year as I did last year: I skipped it. Take notice UEFA: this football animal went out for a meal with the family and did not watch it. The way football is organised and the special treatment I see in both PL and CL has as a result that I now only watch it when Arsenal is playing. Inform your sponsors about it. They will love it.

But although of course I exaggerated a bit there is still is a big miss in my (and probably your) life for the moment.  We now have to face the media reports of Agent A and Player B who are in London to hold talks with Arsenal. And then the next day another newspaper saying that Agent A and Player B say that the player prefers sunnier climes.  And then the next day another paper takes back the first version (manager holding talks) only to see the next day someone repeating the sunnier climate reason.

No football.  Instead we are fed rubbish by the media every long hour of every long day before the players come back for pre-season….. my God life can be hard.

So I try to hold on. I try to stay strong. And I count the days. I count the days till Sunday 14 July. The day that we can be sure that Arsenal is back out on the field. Write it down in your agenda. Write it down in your phone. Remind your other half about the date and the kickoff hour 20.30. (I think that is London time – it is different in Antwerp).

But I know that that evening my football season will start again. And to be honest I can’t wait for it to start again. I know,… a meaningless friendly. But believe me when I see the boys in red and white back on the field playing a game I will feel alive again. Completely alive.

And actually it is not too far away – less than 49 days in fact… 49…what an Arsenal number, but each lower number takes us closer.

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