Lens – Arsenal, The most strange away end in the whole football world (or the search of the Holy Grail)

By Walter Broeckx

Yesterday I was in the away end at Lens for the match Lens – Arsenal. I even have a picture to proof it thanks to Usama who was alert to make a screen shot.

Walter in Lens

Walter going down to get some (much needed) refreshments

I have been to a few away grounds in Europe over the years but what I have survived yesterday was the oddest visit to an away ground one can find.

On the ticket in front of me it said that we had to use access P10. Okay. Fine. That was the start of our search for the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail or Access P10 as it is know in Lens and surroundings. The Holy Grail hidden at the stand called Trannin.

We had parked our car on the parking lots just outside the stadium. We went to the closest entrance at the stand Lepagnot and a guy said: “You have to go to the entrance from the Tarrin stand. Just go that way.”  And off we went. Carine in her wheelchair along with myself and two other members of Arsenal Belgium.

They had gone around the stadium already before we could hand them their tickets. And stepping and pushing around the stadium we went. I heard the sound of coconuts in my head and felt like in the Monty Python movie. We came passed the entrance of the stand Delacourt. Go further they said. So we did. We saw the entrance of the stand Xerces-Marek. Luckily they made way for our wheelchair as it was impossible to go round them as the queue was immense.

Ahhhhh the entrance of the Tribune Trannin. The only problem was that it was an entrance some 15 meter above the street level we were on. And the only way to get up was to use the stairs. I didn’t count them but it looked like some 100 steps. Carine can walk a bit but I felt it coming and didn’t want to take any risk and went up to the steward on top of the mountain of steps. “Non, non”, he said in French, “the visitors entrance is further (plus loin).

He he, lucky I didn’t let Carine take those steps for nothing.  Pushing and stepping we went. And then we bumped in to some other desperate looking Gooners. “Do you know where the entrance is?” was the most asked question in Lens yesterday. We followed the instructions as I do speak French and understand French so I know what they had been saying.  Just follow the instructions.

We passed a green/blue gate. Could this be the visitors’ entrance? Well the gate was closed. And as you couldn’t see through it we went passed it. And then we came in to the streets again. Bumping in to more desperate Gooners. If by any chance we knew the visitors entrance? We asked local supporters and they all didn’t know the visitors entrance. Some said: go back (in French of course) and others said: no go further down the road and then turn left again.

On one of those occasions we suddenly saw a bus driving up a street and blimey it was the Arsenal bus with Wenger sitting in front of his troops at the front of the bus. I was so surprised I forgot to take some pictures. We followed the bus in the hope that we might get the visitors’ entrance at the end of that street….. but alas…. again they send us further down the road again.

To make long walk short… after a while we came back at the entrance of the Lepagnot stand. Where we had started our search for the Holy Grail : entrance P10.

We decided to go in there as the queue was already big and then we would see and if needed we just could enter any stand and trying to find a place no matter where.

But after having passed the first check point in stead of going in the same direction I decided to turn left and move to the most important stand. I knew the visitors end was just beside that particular stand and it would bring us as close as it could be.

A brilliant idea. One of the best I have ever had. Our little group of desperate Gooners (some 10 people by now as they all joined us in desperation and having heard we spoke French with the locals) just turned left and went for it. And lo and behold we bumped in to a steward in a grey sweater.

The first steward who didn’t say: “the other way” or “go further” (in French). He saw our Arsenal shirts and felt something was wrong. I think the wheelchair pushed him over and wanted to help us. I explained what had happened to us and how we had been pushed around for some 2 hours! And then he took us under his strong arms (I wouldn’t have started an argument with the way he was build) and he opened gates for us that were closed before.

And he took us to the stand Trannin right at the foot of the visitors end.

But this is France and things have to go as they should go so he said we had to go to the real visitors end and so we had to follow him and went passed the stand to where we should have gone in. And then he put us outside the stadium again at the entrance where some 40 cops in full battle dress were waiting for the Gooners… that didn’t come as the Arsenal end was almost completely empty apart from a few lucky ones that had found the entrance…

But to be in and then go out to get the ticket in the machine… I heard more coconuts clapping in my head. I don’t think even Monty Python could have invented that…..

So we were at the right entrance but back on the outside. We put our ticket in the machine, they had to open the gate where they had let us out again to allow Carine and the wheelchair entrance again (couldn’t it have been easier to just let her wait inside for the rest of us and let someone else put her ticket in the machine? Oh well…) but we were in. Almost 2 hours after starting our search… how hard can it be to find the visitors entrance of a stadium????

Now it might have been me. Maybe I am stupid to find the entrance. It might have been Carine who from her wheelchair position overlooked the signs. It might have been my friends from Arsenal Belgium who are also too blind or stupid to see it. It might have been that English Gooners are also too blinded by being in France, or too stupid to find it. It might be that even French Gooners are too blind or stupid to find it.

But if almost the whole visitors end had to endure the same troubles to find the entrance for the visitors and had been walking around the stadium for hours…then there is something wrong with the organisation. Then there is something wrong with the (non-existent?) signs.

Fact is that when the match started I think only 20% of the Gooners were in the visitors end. I think even a lot gave up on it after a while.

But we made it. And this is only because of one head-steward taking up his responsibility and helping desperate fans on their search for Entrance P10.

Lens, you should be ashamed of your organisation. Oh and don’t get me started on how Carine had to go up the stairs of the stand on her crutches…. That was almost another Month Python worthy story again…

Lens v Arsenal

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38 Replies to “Lens – Arsenal, The most strange away end in the whole football world (or the search of the Holy Grail)”

  1. From what you have written above which is easy to follow it must have been exasperating for you.

    I am going to give your name to the
    MCC. This is English ruling authority on cricket.

    They are always looking for someone to explain cricket to Americans.

    I sure Mr Gazidis will let you practise on him before you sign up,with the MMC

    Every one they have tried so far has failed. I sure you wont. With you having successfully explained cricket to them they will stop asking us how it is that:

    ‘When you are in you are out and when you are out you are.’

    Ha the sweet mysteries of cricket and the English Language.

  2. Oh sorry that should be

    ‘When you are in you are out and when you are out you are in.’

  3. Both Andrew and I actually spotted you at that moment, and posted about it in the preview post as we went along.

    Really, Walter, President, TV shows, on Arsenal TV when it is out and about… is there no end to this….

  4. Amazing and amusing story Walter— if you’re reading it at home, but I’m sure it was a nightmare if you were experiencing it…
    An Arsenal shirt for Carine’s birthday present? ( I know, bugger off Kenneth,she wants diamonds and perfume!):)
    As side of the Lens stadium trekking,hope you both had a great time.The Arsenal don’t often lose when youre around(only BVB in recent years?)and after that game they fell apart for the rest of the league season pretty much…
    Any grub report for Nicky?

  5. I had just connected to the stream on Arsenal.com when I saw a familiar gooner in the crowd, I thought I have seen this man before I remembered “Oi, thats Walter!” 🙂 and quickly pressed the printscreen button.

  6. Now I can smile about it but when you see the clock ticking and you see the desperation on the other gooners faces you think how simple can it be to put up signs saying: visiteurs and add an arrow to it??? Even English people would make the connection between visiteurs and visitors.
    But no, I haven’t seen one sign…. Oh well we all got a good work out.

    And I have seen Wenger in front of his troops arriving at the ground less than one hour before the match. Rather short I thought. But there he was sitting as straight as one can sit at the front of the bus.

  7. Kenneth, believe it or not but Carine has an Arsenal shirt. Even a new one!!!!!
    But as minutes before she had gone to the toilets (up and down those stairs again) and as a result she was exhausted and overheated for a few moments and because of the heath she had taken off her Arsenal shirt for a few moments.
    Bad timing…. bad timing… later when cooled down she put it on again of course…
    Luckily she didn’t go further than that in taking off her cloths…. 🙂

  8. Thats good news Walter 🙂 Now you’ve got to just get the diamonds and perfume!! :)))
    Jokes aside though, those stairs look like going up the bloody Eiger, and certainly not funny.
    I think its great that Carine comes with you now-its funny how Arsenal grabs you though isnt it?

    Hope shes also our lucky mascot if you go to any games this year…

    Its always a strange but great moment when the Arsenal turn up at an away ground in the bus, and you feel a sense of connection and passion…

  9. Nice report Walter . Sounds a lot like the road signs in my country ! Very good at first, then suddenly not to be seen , either blocked by advertising hoardings , or untrimmed large tree branches or fallen down after the previous rains !
    Or new road repairs to make our journey simpler !
    Thank god for that irate sounding female voice emanating from the hand phone !

  10. May I add that for the first time she even gave her opinion on the players and the tactics used. She wondered why we didn’t play the long ball like Lens did a lot (good spot!!!!) and I explained why we usually go for a slower build up unless we really get the chance to make a real good decisive pass.
    Sorry Theo but you should have done a bit better to make her happy. The Ox won points in her book certainly with the well taken goal.

    From where we were sitting it took ages before the ball ended up in the net…..

  11. With respect to the video feed that Arsenal.com had (has?), is it still flash? Or did they move it to HTML5 or something that isn’t so easy to stick malware in?

  12. Gord I am guessing that you will know the answer to the above ahead of any of us! 🙂

  13. I may be a self-declared expert in football, finance and physiotherapy (for the non-practising blogging or tweeting professional non-retired physio…) but I draw the vector line under computers. Or on them. Something like that.

  14. Thanks finsbury. I don’t have the time to go look to see if Arsenal.com is doing the right thing. I would like to find someone’s document which talks about getting voice recognition working on a computer, so that my Mom finds it easier to use. The last time I tried, I ended up compiling a few GB of stuff, and things still didn’t work.

    I guess Walter spent so much time trying to find the entrance, they never found a food outlet.

    Here on the farm, it is (the end of) haying season, and the beginning of fruit season. I spent a few hours picking black currants, which I then mashed up and put in a jar with some nice cider vinegar and a cinnamon stick. In a week or so, I will have some black currant infused vinegar to use for things like salad.

    It’s good exercise standing in awkward positions for hours, trying to pick berries. Almost as much fun as dodging aaa comments.

  15. @Kenneth W.,
    Walter’s catering report so far consists solely of references to “coconuts in my head”.
    Hardly exciting for a crumblie with food on his mind! 😉

  16. Gord,

    Its still using Flash. I have stopped using Flash since last week (with my new PC). This match was the only exception where I used it.

  17. Thanks Usama. Having Flash installed is just like walking around with a “Kick Me” sign on your back.

    Nicky. Worcestershire Sauce. As near as I can tell, all the commercial ones and most of the home made ones are basically watery, flavoured vinegars. There is a recipe which dates back to the beginnings (1830 something), that is based on apple sauce. Heard of it, or tried it?

  18. @Gord,
    I’m so old that I can remember the reason why sauce was invented. To disguise the taste of food which was long past its sell-by date.
    My Gran (who cleans at the Ems) maintains “If you need sauce there’s something dodgy about the food”.

  19. At last the .com is showing pictures of Santi in training gear and actually playing.

  20. nicky – I love my food & I love your Gran. She is spot on with the sauce requirement, unless the sauce is freshly prepared to complement the food.

    Gord – I like the salad dressing idea. I usually add virgin olive oil (or coconut oil in India) to my vinegar dressing. It is good for the skin.

  21. Nicky – I can see situations where your (and your Gran) idea is true, it is not universal. If you cook macaroni and then let it dry, it is not a very good meal. It pretty much needs the cheese sauce (which I believe is a bechemel sauce (sp?)). Spaghetti without marinara sauce? Ice cream without chocolate sauce? Well, ice cream is pretty good on its own, but chocolate sauce magnifies things. Some sauce (supposedly) tenderize meat. One potential path in this regard is acids. But the acid needs to remain in contact, in order to work. Hence, a reason for a viscous sauce as compared to a watery one.

    Menace, when I mashed up the black currant (I have never used fresh black currants before, and never made this recipe), the mashed currant showed tremendous amounts of pectin and a wonderful aroma. I think it should make a wonderful vinegar for salads. Probably not so good for chips.

    In football news, Gabriel has tonsilitis. I hope he gets over that quickly. But, it killed his going to the USA.

  22. @Gord,
    Macaroni as a pudding is one of my favourites. Baked with full cream milk and sugar, it is surpassed only by rice. And by rice I mean the sort you have as a pudding and NOT the peculiar brown type you are expected to eat as a savoury.

  23. That is a new way to do macaroni for me Nicky. 🙂

    I have seen rice in pudding. And for some reason tapioca seems “like rice” in that regard.

  24. Walter,
    Looking forward to your catering report.
    I hope coconuts will not be mentioned.
    During WW2 my unit’s base depot was Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). We consumed coconut flesh and milk on arrival until we could take no more!

  25. Was it that difficult to watch the match yesternight on arsenal.com? As I logged on to the site on this my very Android 5.1 to watch the match, the site instructed me to first download Hook before I can watch the match and I complied and was taken to the match which I watched for only 25 minutes of the 1st half or so before I started to run out of mobile data.

    I think Lens deliberately did what they’ve done to frustrate Arsenal fans from gaining entry into the stadium to watch the match in their sufficient numbers, thinking the Gunners will be demoralised and lose the match if there aren’t a large number of Gooners in the away stand to cheer them to victory. And the Lens organisers of the match nearly got away with their ruthless plan as the Gunners can only force Lens to a 1-1 draw game. Is it that hard to have the signs of, Away-Vistors IN and Away-Visitors OUT both in French and in English at one and two of the Stadium entry terminals, knowing they will be entertaining an English team whose fans will come to watch the match?

  26. Difficult? My worries about flash having nothing to do with difficulties. Someone stealing personal information, someone infecting my computers with viruses, someone encrypting my files for ransom. That worries me.

    Flash is a security nightmare. So is Java on the web. (Java is not javascript, butI dislike that as well.)

  27. For those of us in North America, who grew up with Bugs Bunny cartoons, the other name for the dish (and is possibly original spelling according to Wikipedia) is Welsh Rabbit (and in a 1747 cookbook, it is Welch Rabbit).

    This dish has nothing to do with rabbits, contrary to what we might have learned from Bugs Bunny.

    If I was to give a concise description, I would say it is a grilled cheese sandwich (open faced).

  28. @ Kenneth Widmerpool – July 23, 2016 at 3:11 pm – For the most part I can tolerate her cold ,irate persona , as very , very often get the same cold tone from the front seat passenger !
    But do you know what scares me ? That sudden silence when you missed the turn you were supposed to take! You bloody well know then that the wheels are going in over drive to correct your mistake ! Very much as you would know that your passenger is thinking of a smarty arsed retort to you faux pas !

    And there you are in stumped silence , unable to explain properly to either that the road is either closed , being diverted or doesn’t exist any more !

    You guys do often get in to these types of situation , right ?
    Right ?
    Guys ?

  29. Finsbury
    If you don’t declare yourself an “expert”, who else will? 🙂

    “coconuts in my head”. ???
    This leaves me a little lost.
    I mean, i do have coconuts in my head, for i do love them, especially a fresh one where the water is sweet and the jelly not yet hard. UUhhMMM! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Roll on the next game, i’m sure that many of you, like me, have been too long in withdrawal. 🙂

  30. para – i’ll drink to that…another tender coconut!

    Lots available in London’s Oxford Street in neat carved shapes. Coconut water/juice/milk also available in tetrapak cartons. Real stuff so its half decent.

  31. Para

    It’s true we are blessed to have so many Expert bloggers who don’t have the ability, skill, patience or discipline to coach their local under fives. Nevermind the badges. Or funding speaking of which I see Mrs. Barty Crouch and her DeathEaters have been muttering away under their breath (or is that the DeathEaters suck in and drain the life and breath from the rest of us?) again.

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