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Trip Report: Belgium & Holland

RebelUltrasOnTour1Hi to everyone from the Rebel Ultras team! Just got back from an unbelievable six-day bender in the cities of Liege and S-Hertogenbosch in Belgium & Holland! What a trip! :) But above all what an experience!

So here goes:

Day 1: We caught our Ryanair flight (from an unknown location!) and headed our way to Charleroi Airport in Belgium. There we were greeted by a lively duo, formerly members of the Hellside group of Standard (the predecessors of the Inferno). Needless to say that accompanying us on the short one hour drive back to Liege was a hefty supply of some of the good old Belgian brew (and trust us when we say…the Belgians KNOW their beer!)

Arrival in Liege was also something of a treat, even though we did arrive at a late time, in typical Ultras fashion we would be crashing in at one of the Ultras’ house. We were immediately made to feel at home plus the place had the best view of the city (The Standard Liege Stadium at Schlessin!).

Even though we were late coming in, the meet, greet and drinks continued for some time while we all discussed and exchanged fun facts about the Inferno, the Hellside and the Antifa movement around the world. At a point we transferred the ‘action’ downtown to a curiously psychedelic bar were we met up with a group of even more lads from the Inferno. The heavy stuff kept coming and soon after we were in what we nicknamed ‘Liege blackout mode’ :p . A beautiful end to a good night. First impressions of the city: Great lively town centre, but above all home to some of the most hospitable Antifa Ultras we’ve had the privilege to meet.

 

Day 2:

After the late night before we slept it out a bit and got our act together a bit before noon. As regular brotherly care we helped around with some handy work that needed to be done and shortly in the afternoon we headed out to the house of one of the Hellside boys who had invited us for dinner the night before. We attended on the condition that they provide the drinks while we provide the cooking! They accepted! So seafood , rice and dessert were on our menu for the evening with an undefined amount of good wine, and other quality alcohol. It went to show once more the openness of the whole group. Once they understand where you’re coming from, they go to great extents to make you feel welcome; something which we all appreciated very much! The night soon turned into good old fashioned Hellside sing-a-longs with tunes like ” when the Reds come marching in” and “We love you Standard” making an often appearance in the repertoire! At around midnight when we thought the night was coming to a close, one of the Hellside boys casually mentioned that the night had just begun, so we headed off down to a local bar right next to the impressive Guillemins Train Station, whereby continued until the wee hours of the morning, with more drinks, more Ultras, and more sing-a-longs until the Sun broke the dark silence of the Liege night sky.

Day 3:

Our head was as cloudy as the Belgian weather on this morning but that didn’t dampen our spirits! We knew that today (Friday) would be the the start of something extra special, for Friday was the day of the annual Cosa SL get together dinner. Just to remind all, Cosa is the fanclub, and designated pre-game (and after game) watering hole only a few meters from the stadium. As a fundraiser, the Inferno boys host an annual get together dinner, once for the Cosa, and once a year for the Ultras group itself. This is a special event as it gathers Inferno from all across Belgium in one venue to eat, drink, socialise and generally be merry! It was a privilege for our team to be invited to this and dine alongside the top group of Belgium.

So early afternoon we jumped into a few cars and headed out to the venue. A discrete hall placed ‘somewhere in the countryside’ surrounding Liege. We entered to be warmly greeted by Inferno from not only Liege but as far away as Le Louviere, Brussels, Mons, and even some across the Belgian borders. Some of the boys and girls were busy preparing the night’s dinner in the kitchen while many gathered in masses around the very busy bar of the place.

A special brew that we had brought as a gift from our homeland soon made its appearance and was swiftly consumed in shot glasses being passed around the crowd. It seemed to have done its trick as soon the party was well underway with a large amount of Inferno songs being sang, while at some point we were invited to join up for dinner where we devoured the very tasty pasta dishes and Tiramisu that Inferno Master Chef “G” and his team of busy Inferno sous chefs  had prepared for us with so much love.

The dining tables soon made way for a dance floor while the DJ blasted tunes from the past and present, people got their groove on and more Ultras songs occasionally blasted louder than the music while pyro lit up the night sky! You know what we say….. no pyro-no party!

We think it was around 3-4 a.m. when we headed back for an after party at a house of one of the Inferno, lots of laughs and good times continued while we found time to talk some more and get to know Ultras from out of Liege as well. At some point we eventually passed out on one of the mattresses that was so graciously provided to us in what was a brilliant end to a really brilliant meet and greet with the Inferno Ultras from across the land.

Day 4:

After breakfasting on a triple espresso and some pain killers we decided that we would take this day to get some rest,get to know the city and stay at home with our Inferno host. The least thing we could do to show our appreciation was to prepare a home cooked dinner which we did (Home made Burgers and dessert on the menu). We gathered with some of the Inferno and chilled out that evening as the coming day was match day away to bruges which due to the bloody TV rights was set for 14:30. This meant we were planned to head down to the local (the Cosa SL) of the fans in order to catch the bus for the two and a half hour ride to bruges at 9:30 in the morning next day! We spent most of this day hanging out with some beers and good food with many  of the Inferno lads coming and going throughout the day from the place were we were staying. Got a lot of fun conversations going and met and strengthened relations with many of the lads. Basically gearing ourselves towards the big match day ahead.

Day 5: Fucking Football Day ! :D

What a morning! We woke up and after breakfasting on some leftover burgers and good ol’ Belgian lager we headed off to catch the bus departing from the Inferno local.

The bus was ram packed with Inferno and a seemingly unlimited supply of Belgian brew! Just how we like it on away days! The atmosphere at the first few kilometers was still resembling the morning dew but it definitely did not take long for everything to come alive in the bus! Lots of Inferno songs, talks and laughter soon hid the roar of the bus engines which meant the road trip was well under way. A couple of stops along the way to pick up some more Inferno recruits from areas along the direction of bruges was all that was needed for the all vital ‘pit-stops’ and the increase of the decibels within our vehicle…..the away game was truly ON!

A very short (that’s how it felt) 2:30 hours later and we where outside the bruges stadium, gathering the vital drums and banners and assembling the troops for the grand entry. Police control was elaborate and included tactical units, anti-riot, dogs, cavalry and an overhanging helicopter, everything that modern football encompasses :(  Everyone underwent ID checks (including us) however we didn’t have any ID’s with us (at least that’s what we told the pigs) and resembling good ol fashioned tourists went quickly past their disgusting checks. However none of this would dampen our Inferno spirits and we soon headed together to gain our rightful positions…on the terraces!

The party inside the stadium was truly one-way traffic, another glorious Inferno victory on the stands, helped about by a very supportive Standard Liege travelling crowd. Banners and flags were constantly on display, while the chants where being sang, amongst which flags of  Palestine as well as banners and support for the Ultras Hapoel Tel Aviv and Gate 9 of Nicosia (whom the Inferno are in official brotherhood with). We were told that the brotherhood banners/flags never miss an Inferno game and in bruges this was once again the clear case.

The team however did not live up to expectations and lost the game 1-0 by a very unlucky goal. Whatever the case though we where not there for the football, we where there for the true passion and the Ultras mentality which did not stop rigorous support, even for a second (even at times through the half time break) , truly BRILLIANT show from the Inferno.

The final whistle blew and the only people still jumping up and down on their feet long after the game had ended, was the white and red end of the Jan Breydel Stadium, with the Inferno of course leading the tunes and displays of affection. A short conga train later and some memorable pictures and we where back on our group bus on the way to Liege.

We knew that the Inferno where a really good supportive group and the best one in Belgium but this day helped us understand how strong and powerful their presence inside the stadiums truly is. Generally our time spent in Liege opened our eyes to a group of supporters that combines the best of both worlds, old school mentality (through the Hellside) and passionate Ultras support through the Inferno. Above all though Liege was a place where we found like minded brothers and sisters, sharing the same Antifa\Antira ideals like ourselves who made us feel at home from the very first second they had picked us up five days earlier at the airport.

That night we slept with a big smile on our faces, knowing that our trip of discovery had gone way beyond our initial expectations.

Day 6 : The Icing on the Cake

This was the last day of this Epic journey that saw us waking up very early in the morning and heading down to catch the 8 o’clock train to S-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch) in Holland. There was no game on today, neither was there any special Ultras event  however we had been invited by the M-side of FC Den Bosch and their fans to join them in the festivities of an age old tradition. The ‘Ooteldonk’ or otherwise known as the Den Bosch legendary carnival.

We had gotten acquainted with the Antira’s of the M-side initially through contacts in Liege. Their fans have had a 25 or so year old brotherhood going with the Hellside group of Liege, one of the oldest brotherhoods in footballing Europe.  So you may imagine that our curiosity was running wild.

A funny incident on this 2:30 hour train ride to Den Bosch was that we decided to take a nap on the train, so imagine our surprise when we woke up parked at a train station, and asking the passengers around “which station is this” we got the answer “Den Bosch”! That caused an immediate chain reaction, we jumped from our seats, grabbing our backpacks on the way and rushed out from the train wagon doors the minute that the platform guard was blowing the whistle! What a stroke of luck! We would have been halfway up Holland in any other case. :p

We knew from the Belgians that the carnival in Den Bosch was a really reaaaaally big thing, but we never could comprehend the magnitude until we got onto the train platform. Everything (and we mean EVERYTHING) , the whole town was decorated in Red White Yellow stripes (the colours of the Den Bosch carnival).

Having finally found our contact a bit outside the station (he nearly missed us on the platform cause we had fallen asleep) we immediately understood one thing; ‘show me your friend and I’ll tell you who you are!” and having had such a long history with the boys in Liege it was soon understood that these guys where of the same nature. Truly hospitable hosts who made us feel included from the very minute we met them.

The day was a monumental experience. It was not football, it was not the terraces,it was a true gesture of being and feeling included in a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. A place where once again we felt at home and let ourselves go in the vibrant and lively atmospheres of this large scale event!

We headed to the house where we were being hosted to leave our stuff and a few short minutes later we were given carnival attire and informed that not only would we observe the carnival, but we would actually participate as one of the groups parading down the tiny streets of this historic town, a true privilege!

You see, some of the FC Den Bosch folk have it in their yearly routines to take time off during every few days to build a wagon and organise a team to parade through the carnival. Now we were part of that team and as we said before, felt truly privileged!

Starting off around noon-time we commenced the 2 hour long parade, slowly walking down the twisting winding streets of this city with our merry posse. An endless supply of good Dutch Liquor was always at hand to help us in our long journey while a crowd of 300,000 was gathered on every street sidewalk, corner and building window. A parade of colour, dancing, music and party atmosphere all round.

During the parade we were filled in on all the customary details of the week long occasion that made us understand the true magnitude, historical and cultural significance that this was to the people of Den Bosch, who are truly proud of their city, and should be! After the parade we were taken around all the important sites of the festivities and finally made way to The Graven Van Leuven. A downtown bar (decorated in intricate carnival detail) that was also the working place of some M-side folk.

The party that followed was of truly EPIC proportions! The second we walked into the ram packed bar the music stopped, we were greeted by a warm welcome blasting from the bar speakers by our host who had a small surprise for us by firing away a local Dutch tune referencing our home country. We felt humbled with all the brotherly acceptance and immediately got into the mood by dancing to all the local carnival beats!

The night ended at around 2 a.m. and we had to go to bed as our flight was leaving early the next day from a town across the border in Germany. Our Den Bosch experience was a truly Antira one. We met people that accepted our differences (as we did theirs) but still accepted us as brothers, opened their hearts and homes to us, and let us understand but mostly, participate freely in their customs and traditions. Like in Liege, we never felt out of our comfort zone, even for a single second, and the memories we kept with us will surely be carried to our graves. A true icing on the cake!

We left the next day on our flight back home in gratitude but also in awe.  Not only from what we have seen but mainly from the people we had the privilege of meeting and sharing a drink and our experiences with. A truly memorable trip, Rebel Ultras style!

Finally Here! The Official Rebel Ultras Video of the Trip. Enjoy!

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