Thursday, 13 November 2014


As many of you will know, I went to Brussels a few weeks back to watch Arsenal take on Anderlecht in the Champions League. We somehow managed to win in the end so happy days but I have to say I did not enjoy the trip as much my first European away day in Dortmund last year. Everything about Belgium disappointed me. The stadium was old-fashioned to say the least and lacked basic toilet facilities (the option was either a hole in the floor or one of the grim looking portable loos). The city centre is not much better with every toilet, including in a department store, costing 40C or more to use.

Another issue that is impossible to miss is the extreme poverty and the clear problem of homelessness. I’m not saying that beggars should not be allowed. I’m just making the point that everywhere you look there is a vagrant and an almost inconceivable amount of the homeless are disabled. Yes-poor people exist in London but the difference is that British beggars tend to be found in shop doorways holding signs where as in the Belgian capital; they pester people sitting in McDonald’s asking for money. I was just surprised because Brussels is the theoretical capital of Europe so I naively believed that the line between rich and poor would not be so visible.

Like I said, most of the beggars are ‘disabled’ and the reason that is literally unbelievable is because some are putting it on for effect. For example when we arrived in Brussels, a man helpfully guided our car back into a parking space using the old wave on then put your hand up to stop method (universal language). He was stood next to a woman begging in a wheelchair. By the time we got out of the car, the two had swapped positions and the man now had a cup that he was holding out in front of passers by. I should have been annoyed at this blatant act of fraud but I actually found the noises he was making funny and quite accurate.

Obviously, I don’t know if all vagrants in Belgium are faking being disabled but it certainly meant my family were quite sceptical when we saw other beggars (eventhough some were probably genuine). I even considered getting an empty coffee cup and seeing how much I could make before the match. At least I’m the real deal. I wish I could take it in turns to be in a wheelchair but unfortunately it’s 24/7 for me. No rest for the wicked.

Bye for now!

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