Four Drink Too Much and End Up in a Belgian Gay Bar

Oh that Belgium – the land of waffles, fiscal suicides and women as hot as they were sculpted of the flames of hell. It was my first time there, and I was positively surprised. My love affair with Eastern Europe usually dictates that I must routinely associate the western travel potential with factors such as excessive sophistication, stable governments, high prices, and an uninspiringly high standards of sanitary facilities and overall hygiene -translating into an inevitable lack of all those small things that I like about Europe’s eastern territories and that I would most accurately define simply as “random incidents”- but as a matter of fact, and this between only you and me, the Old (I usually grant myself the right to dub it “senile”) Europe is by no means a belt of boredom. All you need is a good local guide and a little bit of liquid effort, and in Brussels we had the luxury of the both.

The Channel Tunnel disappointed me, though. I don’t know what exactly had caused me to think that it would have been a submarine, yet I was indeed expecting to see colourful fish species and other marine animals, swimming calmly in midst of numerous wrecks of Zeppelins and Man-O-Wars, from the windows. But no, apparently it is just a train and its windows open into nothingness. I would say “dog’s bollocks”, but during our road trip I also learned that it is actually a positive expression and thus won’t be able to elaborate my sense of disappointment any further. Nevertheless, if you have put too much liquid effort within the previous sixteen hours, having also, say, “overkilled” the abdominal symptoms of that effort by taking too many lactic acid capsules into your empty stomach in the morning, and must stare into that nothingness when at the same time listening to how your Finnish travel companions are trying to teach your British travel companion how the alphabet and the numerals go in their native tongue, and if the toilet is reserved, you can feel how your mental well-being is slowly starting to evaporate and escape through the train’s ventilation system, though with no success, for the strait that makes Britain an island is narrow, and the train, Eurostar, is fast.

Brussels came across a Bohemian, laid-back and cosmopolitan city. It’s a place where people from many different backgrounds meet and mix and mingle. In Brussels you can see people from virtually every place and culture, and when I say “every place and culture” it’s not a joke and I do mean it – and for example last weekend there was Tommi Läntinen, from Turku. Usually appearing where there is football, even on television wearing an AC Milan shirt, Tommi had a gig on Friday night and that sort of events typically attract Suomifans like Ms Pacman attracts the ghosts. The result was – I was described – a musical equivalent of pitch invasion, that you might have wanted to see yet not to hear. Indeed like that infamous Youtube clip where yours truly sings Katyusha in an Azerbaijani cover band, i.e. for our ears only.

They’re a refreshingly dodgy club, those Suomifans. Finland is a relatively small country and generally not that passionate about the sport in question, so the aura of devotion and freakness that gleams around footy jaunts to places such as Armenia or Kazakhstan is probably stronger than in more established football societies. As a good Marxist, I will never be a member, but let me anyway share one story from their trips. I was reminded of it some time ago, when my Finnish alma mater’s student newspaper featured a similar story, probably referring to the same case.

After Shefki Kuqi’s miscalibrated antenna had transmitted the signal towards that fatal direction and Finland had lost in Teplice, the fans had a night out in Prague. Their bus to Via Baltica and all way home, was to depart very early in the morning, so this was a pretty convenient solution for everybody – forget the game, drink over it and sleep on the coach – minus one. One fellow had decided to have one beer with Teplice locals and by turning that beer into more than one, his Nokia’s battery life having turned into a battery death, he had got out their bar in Teplice when the ensemble in Prague had already departed and reached the latitudes of the Czech-Polish border. Thus he enjoyed the sights of Bohemia a little bit longer than he had initially planned, starting with an allegedly very hilarious telephone conversation with his wife: “So, honey, you’re still at home? Good, because if you were now driving to the port to pick me up you might get really angry…”

But back to Belgium. Heysel (aka Stade Roi Baudouin aka Koning Boudewijnstadion, just take your pick) is a big stadium, far too big to be half-empty, and the Belgian audience literally didn’t make much noise of their team. There was a distant drum and some silly foghorn that was howling through the match. It’s doesn’t make an impressive audial scenery to mix a massive stadium, silent spectators and a lone, if zealous, siren. That was the bad thing about the venue. The good thing was that they sold beer and let you take it to the stand.

Of the actual ball game event I don’t write much because I don’t remember much. For being a nil-nil it was surprisingly entertaining, the police were fewer than in Baku, the pitch was green and Jeremenko Jr (when I was at your age, Pluto was a planet and Eremenko was Jeremenko) looked really, really pissed off after the whistle. One night in Brussels proved long, boozy and slightly unforeseeable. Then we came back to London.

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