Supporting Arsenal from across the Channel

By Walter Broeckx

Oh the joy of being an Arsenal fan when at 5 am on a Sunday morning the alarm clock next to my bed wakes me up.  Pure delight is what runs in my blood when I realise I will be in the Emirates in some 12 hours from now. Instead of the usual: which leg will be lifted first and at slow speed on a regular working day, I get out of bed in an instant.

My clothes, ready from the day before and carefully put in place: my Arsenal Benelux shirt, my Arsenal shirt over this and my carefully designed Arsenal jacket, which you can wear at both sides, and a scarf to round it up. Is Michiel, my son out of bed? Off course he is, ready to go just like me.

My car is waiting for us, just a very light breakfast, put some drinks in the car, some biscuits and off we go. A final stop in Antwerp to pick up my brother Eric and here we are, 3 Gooners from Flanders on their way to the Emirates.

Last time I went with my car to London all things happened as my car broke down halfway the journey. So I keep my fingers crossed but since then I have a new car and it has been running well. When passing Ghent everything is still okay and so I relax a bit as I pass the point where all the trouble began last time.

“Get your motor runnin’, Head out on the highway, Lookin’ for adventure, And whatever comes our way…” is played on the radio and we sing along and suddenly something is coming our way. Is it a plane? Is it superman? No it’s a bird and he flies with a hard bump against the mirror on the passenger’s side.

A few moments of anxiety but apart from my mirror being pushed in it’s safety position no damage at first sight. Well we are born to be wild I think so we just carry on and from then on the trip is rather boring till we reach Calais.

The Eurotunnel company expected us so they say we are welcome and we can get on board of the shuttle train and my engine is running as quiet as a diesel engine can run. What a sweet sound this time.

And then we enter England. Driving on the left side is a piece of cake on the highway. What’s the fuss all about? I had thought of practising driving on the left a bit the day before I came but the rest of the family didn’t think it was a good idea.

So when we arrived at London and left the highway I was feeling relaxed. And then we jumped in to the traffic from London. My navigation system worked very well, apart from the Blackwall tunnel bit, and we drove nice and easy to our final destination.

My brother and son helped me a bit with every turn to keep in the right lane. Short turn to the left instead of the long turn we take at my home and the long turn to the right instead of the short turn we take. I think no one could tell I was a foreigner driving in London with those 2 co-pilots and my navigation system.

We had booked a parking space close to the Emirates and before we knew it we had the Emirates in sight. This is home. A text message to Tony to let him know we survived and it could have woke him up as I later found out he had a party the night before and we were at the Emirates around 10 am, so sorry Tony for this.

Lot’s of time so a nice breakfast followed by a visit of the Armoury and the Arsenal museum to pass the time. And then up to the Auld Triangle where I was to meet Tony and his friends.

I learned something about the laws in England. It seems that is forbidden to stand outside a pub and have a drink and for some reason it is very criminal to even have that drink on the other side of the road. So I was lucky to see a combination of officer Goody, inspector Grimm (characters from The thin blue line comedy) in one person.

He even had officer Habib with him but she was blond but she was as embarrassed as Habib is when Goody is doing dumb again. But the cop was thinking he was the star of the show when he ordered those heavy criminals to get on the other side of the road and to leave the scene of the crime. So it was comedy time.

I think Tony had arranged this special for me and the rest of the Benelux gang. You really can not be such an asshole as that policeman was just by yourself I think.  But then again when the other cops directed him just in front of the Arsenal underground station he was standing on the road with an attitude and a face letting the whole world know that he was the most important person in North London. Enough comedy now it’s getting serious: the game.

We won 4-0 and it has been talked about so I just leave that out. I could say a few words on the ref who was poor, once again. There really are two sets of rules in the EPL I think. The one for Arsenal and the one for the rest of the teams. Or are they really that poor?

What I do want to talk about is the reaction of some parts of the crowd against some players. I don’t love all our players at the same level and I have my favourites and the one I don’t like that much. And at home I can let my own feelings get the upper hand but once in the Emirates my rule as a supporter is: I support every player that is in an Arsenal shirt.

So when the names where called I couldn’t believe that when Fabianski’s name it was answered with boo’s from some fans. I know he messed up on occasions this season but is this the way we want to give him confidence? The same with Silvestre. Leave the booing for the pub, when you are at home but please let us support our own players when we are in the Emirates. If we want them to perform well, they must have the feeling of support from their fans.

The tension of the game was over when we took a 2-0 lead. The crowd relaxed and even the fact that Tottenham was winning at that time looked irrelevant. The atmosphere between the two supporters clans was nice to see. Arsenal fans applauding when the Fulham fans sang about winning the Europa league and a nice thing when we first stood up to hate the Spuds and immediately followed by the Fulham fans when they joined us and added we hate Chelsea which we all could agree on.

Around the time that Vela scored our 4th goal the news came through that Tottenham was losing against Burnley and there was a lot of cheering and laughter in the crowd. Well the sun didn’t shine on Sunday but it sure felt like that at the end of the game. The announcement by the official speaker of the 4-2 defeat of Tottenham was greeted with a big cheer. Happy St. Totteringhamsday at last. I really would like to express the desire to celebrate it around new year in the next season.

Then the lap of appreciation. Led by a limping Cesc Fabregas, he surely can not go to the world cup in this state, and followed by the rest of the team. All the injured players present, a big group one could say. Names were sung by the crowd: Cesc Fabregas who we didn’t have in fact on the day. Robin Van Persie with his kid. And  Eboue who’s name was going through the ranks the whole afternoon. He couldn’t hold all his kids in his arms and he was one of the stars of the show.

At the end of the group was our manager. Needless to say that I like him and it will be no surprise that I was happy to join in the many times his song was sang.  I think he was happy to get this support after what was a disappointing end of the season after being so close one month ago.

After the game a last meeting with Tony and the rest of us. We realized another season was over and now we are all facing the long wait till the fixture list comes out. We have to wait on to see what is happening with players coming in or leaving and we will have the usual rubbish of rumours and names of whom we should buy.

So the season is over, bring on the next. I hope we will meet again in the next season and I think this will be the season when we start the harvest. And if you are interested in my driving skills: the trip home was very smooth. No more birds on the road that came to meet ma car. And at 3 am Monday morning I was finally in my bed. Ooh to be a Gooner! I whispered but my wife wasn’t interested in the Arsenal at that time of the night.

Editorial note: I’m a citizen of the UK and as bemused by Walter about the regulations concerning drinking, but I think the regs at the Triangle are that drinking IS allowed in the street unless a police officer asks you to move.  So the copper was probably within his rights – it was just that no one had ever taught him the notion of how to deal with a crowd.   But it was a good show, and worth the entrance money of 2 pints of Guiness, 2 cokes and an orange juice.  Tony

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11 Replies to “Supporting Arsenal from across the Channel”

  1. I suspect that the Boys in Blue (Walter that means the Cops, not Chelsea FC!) will tell you that the primary legal issue to do with drinking is ‘potential for public order offences’. Which basically means, is something likely to go off by a crowd drinking somewhere, in this case outside a pub.

    So I think it’s really left to police discretion which clearly on this occasion will lead to some ‘updating of procedures, HR policies and training assessment methodologies’……

  2. He didn’t leave his address, Dec.
    I think it was an early bird, but after our collision he was a late bird I think. 😉 Well in Dutch it sounds funny.

  3. Yeah Hadley, I think it was sad. If there is a player I don’t like as much as the others I just don’t shout his name when they announce him. But I will never boo him.

  4. One day I’d like to boo the boo boys. Preferably with 59 000 other supporters.

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