The trip from Antwerp to Arsenal, to the top of the league (and back to Antwerp)

By Walter Broeckx

Even before my alarm clock was playing its first tune at 6.00 am I was well awake. A quick shower to be really fresh for the day. A sandwich with cheese and a fruit drink should be enough to get out of the door.

Checking if I got all that I needed. The parking permit for the bus, the list of the names who would be there and most importantly of course: the tickets! Supporters clubs still get paper tickets so it is always important to have them with us. I even counted them again to be sure even though I had counted them at least three times in the last month.

After about 1 km on the way to our meeting point I realised I had forgotten my camera. A quick turn to go back home to pick it up and then back to our meeting point near Antwerp. Arriving last being the president is not a good job but if it hadn’t been for my camera I would have been first. I think.

Calling the bus driver who was waiting for us at the other side of the big roundabout where we start a lot of our trips and once he was at the right spot we could start our road to what would end in being top of the league.

To Ghent to join up with the rest of our group. 16 persons spread over 2 minibuses. In our group we had not only the oldest member but also our youngest member. From 6 to 61 years old. 4 minors on a group of 16 is great for the future. And certainly for the young kids who made their first trip to the Emirates it would be a great day to remember for the rest of their lives.

No problems with the shuttle trains this time as that is sometimes a bit tricky with some people trying to use the tunnels to walk to England these days, but the trains ran on time. At the customs we met a group of Belgian West Ham supporters. A bit of banter but we told them to win against Chelsea and wished them good luck. The difference between a club like Arsenal where there are lots of seats but few tickets to be sold to supporters clubs and a club like West Ham that has a stadium that is almost never sold out was clear to see. Their group was much bigger as they can get as many tickets each match as they want.

Once off the train we went on the road to London and only when we had passed the Blackwall tunnel and drove in to the heart of London we got some more problems with the traffic. But I think it was just the usual London traffic of any other Saturday morning. But it took a bit of time to get to our final destination: Hornsey Road where we could park our busses.

But much earlier than expected and planned (as we got on to an earlier train in Calais) we parked the coaches. Up to the Armoury to buy stuff and as I had only put on the match shirt with my name on I bought myself a nice Arsenal Cannon Zip Thru to keep me warm. Oh yes this was well planned upfront. And it sure kept me very warm during the rest of the trip. In fact in the bus it was too warm to keep it on.

A quick meal was taken with most of us ending up in the Little Wonder café right in front of the Armoury shop on the roundabout. A chicken burger with fries was what I got. Well it was eatable and my intestines didn’t protest it too much the rest of the day or night. My brother Eric went for eggs with bacon and toast and he fully enjoyed it with a cappuccino.  [I always knew you had style Eric – Tony]

After that I went to the meeting with the supporters clubs and then we went to see Tony, Andrew and Drew in the Swimmer at Grafton Arms. A pub a bit further away from the ground but as a result a nice quiet place where you can sit and enjoy a drink before the match. Our treasurer from the supporters club Marcel was chasing signatures on the day. After having the signature of John Cross in Piebury Corner he now got the signature of Tony in his own book Making the Arsenal.

It all was very enjoyable as usual seeing all of you again. The walk to the ground talking about life, Untold, health, Tony looking as brown as a Greek in the rain that came down…. I didn’t even feel the rain as the company was great and it all was fun talking with each other.

We entered the ground and found the rest of our group. We unfolded the Arsenal Belgium flag and then enjoyed 90 minutes of top football from Arsenal and a spell of some 15 minutes of Everton trying to steal a point away from us. Which they couldn’t.

And so it was us singing top of the league at the end of the match. If I really can ask something Arsenal it would be to not start the music right at the final whistle. Because it brings down the atmosphere from 100 to about 50 on a scale of 0 to 100. As the music is so loud you cannot sing so people will applaud a bit still but that dies down as well it us useless clapping when nobody can hear the clapping because some music being played. I really think it would improve the after match atmosphere if they just would wait for a minute before playing some music.

After the match we waited for Tony to say goodbye. We quickly went to a shop to have something to drink for on the road. Once we all were on the coach we immediately drove in to the London traffic. It was very congested of course but once we got to the Blackwall Tunnel we drove off in the night all feeling great and tired.

Again we were allowed on the earlier train and that made us gain three or four hours so we only had a 20 hours round trip this time. Apart from the Starbucks all shops were closed in the Folkestone terminal so we had to take what they served. A bun with some sausages was what I got and a ham/cheese croissant. And a cappuccino of course. That would take me through the rest of the night. Again no protest from my inner regions about the food.

The bus drivers took us to Ghent and Antwerp without any problems. I got home when the news from 3.00 am was on my car radio. It was great to be back home. With my head filled with lovely memories of another great day in London.

Experiencing the togetherness with the rest of our supporters club members, the happiness from winning the match and being top of the league. Talking about football and other things. Laughing, singing, … once again a great day to remember.

I can’t wait to come back again but that will be for somewhere in the new year. But that we will return is a certainty. Arsenal Belgium will have a few members over for the matches against Tottenham and Manchester City but I will not be part of the group those days. Let us hope Arsenal keep up our winning appearances when Arsenal Belgium is in the ground on those days!

From the anniversary files

  • 27 October 1999: Arsenal made it two home defeats in a row in the Champions League losing to Fiorentina at Wembley.  They had proven the crowds would go to Wembley, but the results didn’t follow.
  • 27 October 2010: In the 4th round of the league cup (after an encouraging 4-1 away win to Tottenham in round 3), Arsenal beat Bolton away 4-0.  Walcott (2), Bendtner and an own goal gave Arsenal victory.  Arsenal reached the final scoring 15 in the run, but Bendtner was the only player to get more than one goal throughout.

From the Arsenal History Society

The Untold Books



9 Replies to “The trip from Antwerp to Arsenal, to the top of the league (and back to Antwerp)”

  1. Walter, it sounds like you all had a great (if long) day, with the big plus of the Gunners getting 3 points and going top of the EPL.
    Best wishes to all the Belgian Gunners fans

  2. A nice change, Walter from the usual straight report on a match. Especially on the catering front.
    I see a cappuccino got a mention, thanks to Tony.

  3. Am I right in saying we always win when Walter and his fellow Belgian supporters come over to watch their beloved team? That’s how it seems anyway.

  4. In 10 years coming to Arsenal in the Emirates I have only witnessed one defeat. A bleak 0-1 against Newcastle. Ref Dean in charge that day so no real surprise…

  5. Wow, that is some record Walter. Maybe the club should pay for you to come over for every match, then we could have an Invincibles mark 2.

  6. Belgian Irons as well – what next?! Glad you made it home safe and sound Walter and I hope you got to see the Untold Banner as well

  7. Interesting report.

    You gained 3 hours and Arsenal gained 3 points.

    Your group from Belgium are good omen for the Emirates.

    This is to another win tonight, a good rest for deserving players and a good run for needing players.


  8. I love reading about your trips to see Arsenal.
    They’re not so much Trips as Adventures. And the whole thing about checking tickets so many times – then leaving home without the camera – wow, it’s not just me!

    I must say, the only thing that gave me hope for the result of this match was the fact that you were coming. Everything seemed set for dismal-ity, what with the choice of refs, etc.

    I’m so glad you had a great time, along with your colleagues, and the comparison with the Belgium Hammers is fascinating. And your travel was safe too. Brilliant!

    Thanks for reporting, Walter.

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