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June 2021

Living the Wembley dream

By Walter Broeckx

When I was some 8-9 years old my parents bought our first TV. An old black and white TV that took ages to warm up before you first could hear a voice coming out of it and then the image would load where you first would see the face in all kinds of shapes and forms before it would be the correct format.

Oh and yes, banging on top of it would also help if it didn’t start immediately. Older people will remember this I think. Young people will shake their head. But that was how it was some 40-45 years ago.

In those days I remember as a kid sitting in front of my TV one particular Saturday afternoon in May. Each year on this day I didn’t go to play football in the nearby park. No it was the Saturday of the Cup final. Our Flemish official channel (BRT) was the only one of the broadcasters who would give the Cup Final match live on TV. I don’t know 100% for sure but it might be that the 1971 Arsenal – Liverpool cup final was the first I saw live on our TV.

I fell in love with the FA Cup final from the first time. Everything had to go out of the way when the cup final was played. And as a kid from around 10 years old I had one big dream: to be in Wembley when the FA Cup final was played.

In my country and in the religion I was brought up in around the age of 12 you have to confirm that you are a part of the religion. It is the renewal of the baptism you got as a baby. We had to go to church every week in the two years of building up to that moment. We had to learn things, we had to do stuff, we had to gather weekly to speak and learn about our religion.

And then when I found out the date of the church service and the date of the FA cup final….I was sad, angry, mad, angrier…. because the date and even the hour would mean that I could not see the Cup final!

I still remember having an argument with my mother about it on the day. I said I didn’t want to go to church and wanted to stay at home for the Cup final. Of course my mother would have none of that and made sure I want to Church…. But I do remember my father, uncles and if I’m not mistaken my older brother Eric saying they would come after us to church….and then after the service I found out that they had stayed at home for the whole match and only then had come to Church.

For those with a great memory: it was the Sunderland – Leeds cup final in which the Sunderland keeper made an amazing save. All I could hear after the church service was about that save…. It sure didn’t make me feel better at the time. But this is just to show how important the FA Cup final was to me in those days. I would have risked going to hell for it…..

But you know how things go with children’s dreams. They just remain dreams. Since that time. I have seen plenty of cup finals. Most of them in fact. And each May the dream came back. If only….if only I could be in Wembley for a cup final. Any cup final. No matter which teams. That has been my dream for well some 45 years now.

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Each time when Arsenal played the cup final since I became an Arsenal supporter the dream came back ever more than before. But well…. you know how things go when Arsenal is in the cup final. Only the lucky few get a ticket. And most of us Arsenal supporters can only watch it on TV.

I have been to the screening in the Emirates for  the last 2 cup finals we played at Wembley. So I was as close as I could get to being in Wembley. And I enjoyed it massively in the Emirates and it came as close to being there….but it wasn’t Wembley.

But sometimes dreams come true. Sometimes for whatever reason you get a chance to live the dream. And so has happened to me this year. A very dear friend in England has thought of me when one of the people who had a ticket couldn’t go to Wembley. He offered me to take up the place and sit with him in Wembley in the Arsenal end.

So living the dream in not only seeing a cup final but a cup final involving Arsenal! That is something that looked impossible for me for all those years since I really became an Arsenal supporter in 1979.

And yet here I am. By the time you read this I will have driven to London with my wife Carine. She will not enter Wembley but will stay in the hotel nearby Wembley. I will make the long trip to Wembley and find myself in the stadium for the FA Cup final. A cup final with Arsenal on the field. I still have to pinch myself to realise I am no longer dreaming.

After having been in Wembley for the semi final against Wigan a few years ago and that was already a high in my football supporters live I now will be back to see the real thing: The Final itself.

So I feel rather excited since I heard the news some 14 days ago. Excited, blessed,… and most of all grateful for having that once in a lifetime chance to be there. Certainly as a supporter from outside of England getting a ticket for the cup final is very difficult to get. Now I am one of the blessed persons to witness the final of the greatest cup competition in the world. And I can’t believe how lucky I am.  

PS: As a result you will have no live report from me right after the match.

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6 comments to Living the Wembley dream

  • Knobby

    Best wishes Walter, you deserve every minute of your day… Lap it up.

  • Chris

    Happy for you Walter !
    Talk about a dream come true !

  • Ando

    Reading this at 5 am in Australia, with the news of the great result still cresh in my mind and heart, I am so happy for you Walter – that you got to see our team victorious in your first Wembley final.
    I too remember those black-&-white TV-thumping days, the first final I saw this way was Forest v Everton I think.
    I was at Wembley for the 2 terrible League Cup disappointments and then, at last, the great Double win in 1971.
    I rememner walking up Fryent Way to Kingsbury to avoid the crowds at Wemnley Park tube and catching the train home to Stanmore, bathed in glory amd warm sunshine.
    Congratulations, fellow Gooner; and best wishes to Mrs Broekx for a fine celebration of the result.

  • Dr Duh

    I’m so happy you got to witness that Walter.
    Soak it in. Truly you deserve it.

  • Zedsaunt

    Walter posts

    ” Now I am one of the blessed persons to witness the final of the greatest cup competition in the world. And I can’t believe how lucky I am. ”

    And Mr Wenger has won it seven times. The greatest winner of FA Cups in history. Some record! For every kid around the planet who turned on for their first FA Cup Final Mr Wenger sets the measure for the rest of their lives.

    A great day.

  • Rantetta

    I’m so happy for you Walter.

    I hope your wife is travelling easier than she was a few years ago, and has made positive improvements with her health, and that that improvement continues.

    I’d still like to see your recollections of the trip, including the final, of course.
    No one deserves to fulfill this particular dream – than you.