By Walter Broeckx
So we have a match coming up this week that was looked upon with great anticipation from our supporters club in Belgium when it was announced: Anderlecht. So here is our Untold take on all and everything involved in this match.
Let us start with some geography. Anderlecht is one of the 19 municipalities in the Brussels-capital region. The part of Belgium where the two biggest languages are (or should be) treated in the same way: Dutch (the Flemish version) and French. We also have a German speaking minority in Belgium situated at the border with Germany.
So first the story outside football a bit.
When the draw was made and Arsenal ended up in the same group as Anderlecht our supporters club was in heaven. A dream draw. We saw already images of the whole group (almost 100 paying members) taking our places in the visitors’ end of the Constant Vanden Stock stadium.
This dream lies on the floor shattered in to a thousand pieces. Or well at least 100 pieces. One for each of our members. As the official supporters club of the country we were playing in, the liaison person told us that we would be seen as a very important partner.
But then came the worrying news. Anderlecht was very hesitant in stating how many tickets Arsenal would get. And from the originally hoped for more than 1000 we heard numbers going down to around 750. Now we still don’t know the exact number but it seems to be very low.
For some reason Anderlecht and the Belgian authorities were not really keen on having too many Arsenal supporters in town for this match. And so I think they took all the reasons they could find to give Arsenal fewer tickets than we hoped for and maybe we were entitled to. Safety measures can be one reason to deduct the number of tickets for visiting fans and I think Anderlecht used this.
Also the Brussels police is not that keen on having English supporters too near to the ground. So for this reason we have to warn you once again that if you come too near to the ground and don’t have a ticket the police will arrest you. So for Arsenal fans travelling to Brussels without a ticket it might be safe to stay in the centre of Brussels and don’t go near the stadium.
So after our first joy at finding Arsenal playing in Belgium, came the fear. We were thinking about getting fewer tickets than hoped for. But the longer it took the more we started fearing for the worst case scenario: getting no tickets at all.
And so it ended. The dream became a nightmare. As the allocation was so small Arsenal decided to distribute the tickets only to the travelling members of Arsenal. A decision that we are not happy with at all. As you can understand.
But when you have hardly anything to give away (=sell of course) it is hard to please all the people who want something.
We have heard that the lower tier of the visitors’ end will not be used for this match. And that would have been the difference between us visiting or not. So if you see a big gap behind the goal on the right hand side in the lower tear: that is where we should have been.
Of course I can understand that the authorities in Brussels are not that happy with an English team visiting Brussels. I think we can say a (sarcastically) thank you for the idiots from Liverpool who stormed the Heysel Stadium 29 years ago. It left a trauma that still is lying upon football in Belgium.
And in that way I can understand that the police are not really looking forwards to it. Also the Anderlecht supporters do have their dark elements that cause troubles every now and then. As with most teams most supporters are reasonable if you meet them but they are one of the clubs that bring some trouble when visiting some other clubs. Most of the time when playing Club Brugge or Standard.
So they will do all they can to avoid confrontations as much as possible. With giving fewer tickets to Arsenal supporters and with keeping Arsenal supporters away from the ground when they have no ticket.
I wonder if this is something that also is happening in England? Can the police arrest you as a visiting fan when you don’t have tickets and come close to the stadium? Well they can in Belgium since the Heysel tragedy and the football law came in to place as a result.
[In England Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act can be used to gather together any group of people where the police believe that there may be a risk of a public order offence. This could be a gathering of football fans without tickets. The police are then allowed to hold people in an area (known as kettling) search them, taken personal details and photograph them. – Tony]
But whatever the reason and the thinking of Anderlecht, Arsenal and the Belgian-Brussels authorities might have been the final result is we got no tickets for this match.
Leaving us very frustrated. Our main concern now is that we hope that we can take our members over to London and give them all at least one Arsenal match this season. I hope Arsenal will make up for the missed chance to help our new board to more members by giving us extra tickets for the second part of the season.
People have asked us where we would meet in Brussels. But the thing is that apart from people who live in Brussels nobody likes to go to Brussels. We have a very strong hate relationship with our capital. Certainly in Flanders where most of our members come from.
And our board decided (also bearing in mind the police instructions) not to go to Brussels at all for this match. Most of us are not really acquainted with the area and we could walk too close to the stadium without even knowing it. So no Brussels for us as a supporters’ club. We will meet in another town for this match.
Those English supporters who come to Brussels and who don’t have a ticket we can only advise to stay away from the stadium and to watch the match in the sports pubs that are located in Brussels. Near the Bourse there is one that I know. There are a few others and if you google “Irish pubs Brussels” you can find them.
Not one of them is close to the Eurostar station so it will take you a walk to get there or use the transport system to get there. The good thing is that they are all in the different direction than the stadium when you come by train. So you probably will not have the chance to be arrested.
Next article we will talk about what really matters: the sporting side of Anderlecht.
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