The dedication that Arsenal fans from all over the world have, in supporting the club, often amazes me. And over the years of running Untold it has been a pleasure to meet with many overseas supporters – particularly those who have got to know us through the work of Walter Broeckx on Untold.
Here’s a report from Marcel Bogaerts on what it was like to travel from Belgium to attend the last match of the season.
In reading this I do hope you’ll notice the time it takes to get to London. And there’s me complaining about the 180 mile round trip Blacksheep and I do for the home games!
Belgian fans at the last home game, hotel and catering report
A real delight for a Belgian gooner is when he can combine a long weekend with an Arsenal home game. The final game of the 2014-2015 season was such an occasion.
Not for the first time we had to rely on ticket exchange to book ourselves a seat, but a few hours of monitoring the box office was all it took to get two places in the North Bank, one upper tier and one lower tier, and a third seat in the West Stand.
We (myself, my son Oliver and my friend Stan) left Belgium around lunchtime on Saturday. The company “Megabus” needed about seven hours to bring us from Antwerp, via Ghent and Lille, to Victoria Coach Station.
The hotel that I booked via internet was the Beaconsfield hotel, rooms above the pub with the same name, in Green Lanes, within walking distance from Manor House underground station. Checking in the hotel was a bit unusual, in the pub, next to the Guinness tap.
Our room was on the third floor, not big, but clean and with three single beds. That would be fine.
Some research before departure had shown that Green Lanes is a street packed with Turkish restaurants and shops. A 15 minutes walk down the street resulted in “l’embarras du choix”, as a Frenchman would say, “an embarrassment of riches” in English.
Restaurant Devran looked attractive. Light colours inside, uniformed waiters and waitresses, many customers enjoying their food and an inviting smell of spices and grilled meat were the main reasons that dragged us inside.
The choice was spot-on. With some bread and salad immediately put on the table, we had sufficient time to study the menu. For starters we ordered falafel, calamari and pan fried mussels.
The Turkish red wine was not a connoisseur’s selection, it was merely a shot in the dark, but it was a very lucky one.
The main course, the mixed grill Devran special was a very large plate filled with four kinds of grilled meat (chicken, köfte, lamb and kebab), served with bread, rice and couscous.
The menu mentioned that it should be enough for 2-3 people, but to me that was the understatement of the year.
A second bottle of the same wine was needed to wash it down. Turkish coffee and home made baklava were a perfect finishing touch. Stuffed with good food and wine we walked back to the hotel to find some sleep and wake up freshly for matchday.
We were up early.
The breakfast concept of the hotel was a bit peculiar. The small fridge in the room contained milk and orange juice, and on a small table in the corner of the room we had one person boxes of Kellogg’s cornflakes, coffee and tea and a water heater. For healthy Arsenal fans that was not a filling breakfast, to say the least!
The weather was good and we decided to leave the hotel for more. We could not leave via the pub, as it was still closed, and as we were told when we checked in, we left via the fire exit.
This time we headed for Camden Market. It was a sunny morning, Camden Lock is a very picturesque place en the market is colourful, interesting and pleasant, especially after a cinnamon roll and coffee in the Starbucks next to the lock.
But I still had something to do in The Armoury, on behalf of Arsenal Belgium.
Around noon we decided it was time to go to the Emirates. Highbury & Islington is for us the best underground station, it’s a pleasure to walk along Holloway Road and find something to eat and drink before the game. There was still outdoor seating available at the Piebury Corner, and after a “Tony Adams” with mash and peas, and a bottled ale, poured out in a plastic cup, it was shopping time.
I will not elaborate on our match experience. Enough has been said about the game, but let me just add that I am a very happy Belgian gooner with my Emirates experiences in the 2014-2015 season. I went four times, Arsenal won four times, scored 16 goals and conceded only two.
After the players’ appreciation lap we went back to Green Lanes. Restaurant Indika did not serve alcoholic drinks but the Indian food, chicken korma, chicken tandoori and salmon bhuna, was tasty. I would not say that it was the best Indian food I have ever had in London. I missed a bit of balance in my chicken korma, the dish was well seasoned but some spices may have been added too late or too early, were a bit too dominant on the palate. Still, we ate well and were served in a friendly and entertaining way by the waiters, who clearly were Arsenal fans.
Back in our pub/hotel we went for a Guinness and were entertained with live music – a nice touch.
Once again it was a great football weekend in London, and needless to say that we look forward to another opportunity to come to the Emirates!
From the anniversary files…
6 June 1985: Fifa extended Uefa’s ban on English clubs in Europe to a worldwide ban lasting an indefinite amount of time but excluded from the ban the England national team.
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