I’m on the train to London…I hope. Can’t wait to arrive, but the 2 hour train ride will give me a chance to relax, charge my phone, watch, computer and take care of a few things.
What an experience! Belgium lost, but it was still incredible watching the game live in Belgium with 10,000+ fans. It would have been more memorable had they pulled off the win, but they didn’t. I can’t change that and I knew that was the risk when I picked Brussels as my first destination.
Last night ended up working out perfectly, but for awhile, I was worried. My flight was delayed in Iceland, meaning instead of 2 hours 40 minutes, I had about 2 hours between arriving and the start of the game. Not exactly ideal having travelled so far.
Our good family friend from Holland, Jay van Veelen picked me up at the airport and we headed to the city center. En route, the traffic was horrendous, so our time got tighter and tighter. While stopped in traffic, we asked a few police officers a good spot to watch the game and they recommended he Spiegelplaza in Jette. Off we went, but between the traffic and GPS, our expected arrival kept getting pushed back closer to game time. If needed, we would have watched the game in a bar somewhere, but that wasn’t the experience I came so far for…
While we were en route, the Ruggels family reached out saying they were on their way. I played with Craig at SSU and my wife Renee played with Calei. Awesome to connect with them and their crew (Landon, Ashlee and Olivia). After rerouting several times, we finally arrived close enough to park and walk. The area was packed and getting busier. I estimated 10,000-12,000 fans gathered in the plaza and took in the game. They had to start to turn fans away because the crowd grew too big. Most were dressed in Belgian uniforms, flags, hats, etc with a few French fans sprinkled in.
It was awesome to spend a few hours with Jay and take in the game. He has been coming to the US since 1996 and knows alot of coaches in Sonoma County. I’m appreciative that he was willing to come with less than 24 hours notice. It wouldn’t have been the same experience without him.
It was also amazing to spend some time with the Ruggels family. They are in the midst of a European tour with the family. We met up after the game when the crowds died down a bit. Craig and I shared a lot of great soccer memories together over the years…add another one to the mix.
Jay returned to Holland last night. This morning I woke up early to explore Brussels. It is such a beautiful city I walked over 5 miles taking in the sights. There were still fans out at 5:30am and the city staff were cleaning up from a busy night. A French journalist was intrigued by the story of an American going to Belgium and England and asked to interview me. It was the usual question…do Americans really care about soccer, especially when the US isn’t in the tournament? I tried not to be offended. I told him I was here and there is a huge group of Americans following the World Cup, passionately watching every game, analyzing trends, etc. He asked who I wanted to win and initially said England. I finished by joking that it France won it would be nice to say the US tied the World Cup Champs in their final preparation game with a group of teenagers. He didn’t find that quite as funny as I did.
Anyway, it was well worth the trip and I’m just starting. I’m super tired but will find a few times to relax and recharge. Can’t wait for the England vs Croatia game tonight. 7pm in London. Still working on where exactly I will watch the game…I have 3-4 good options but wanted to see which one made sense when I arrived.
Belgium is out of the World Cup and you could sense a feeling of sadness, but also some joy and pride in the run they had to the semifinals. One a different day they could be preparing for the World Cup final instead of the 3rd place game.
London, here I come!