Monday, April 24, 2006
North Bank Lower Tier Block 8 Row Y Seat 188
Finally! A dream come true! To visit Highbury, better yet, watch my Arsenal in live action from the stands! Egged on by my new found Gooners, I made the trip to Highbury on a bright sunny Saturday. I was so excited the night before I couldn't sleep too well and woke up 9am on matchday. After changing into my Arsenal jersey, I ambled my way to the station to take the tube.
I counted down to the stops to my final destination, Arsenal. Even the tube station here pays homage to a great football club by way of murals on it's station walls! I was early, but so were the market stall holders who were already setting up their wares. I decided to take a few photos first, then headed into the Arsenal shop. I was dumbfounded at first at all the merchandise in store. Should I get a scarf or two? Should I buy some more t-shirts? Oh how about that mug? And pin, and badge, and...
I had to step out before I blew my credit card to smithereens. By that time the streets were crowded with fellow Gooners, all in their jerseys and scarves. Young one, little ones, they'd all come to watch the finest club in football. Police presence were high, with some mounted on horses to keep the crowd in control. Not that they were rowdy. In fact, it was almost festive, with many tv and radio stations descending onto Highbury to suss out how the supporters felt. I should say we were very, very confident of getting 3 points that afternoon.
Initially I'd wanted to part with GBP150 max for a ticket to watch the match. After seeing how it is a local derby against Spurs, I mentally revised it to GBP200. It was easy to have people walking by me, who looked very touristy, and whisper ,"Ticket? How many?". One guy wanted GBP300 which was way too much.
I was walking towards the atm machine when this young fellow approached me.
"Mate, tickets to the match? How many of ya, mate?"
"300. I get you one with good seat."
"200? Nah mate, it's Arsenal v Spurs, last derby!"
"k mate, 250 ok? 250 I find you nice seat."
In a matter of minutes, S$750 changed hands for a ticket to the last local derby at Highbury. I rue my lack of bargaining prowess, but quickly told myself that it'd be worth it. I couldn't resist the official merchandise anymore and went into the shop. My credit card had a light workout, keeping in mind my most precious purchase, not 10mins ago.
Kick off was gonna happen anytime soon. I made my way into the turnstiles, had my bags checked and there I was, in Highbury. The warm sunshine bathed the small but historically rich stadium in a nice glow. I went to look for my seat. All around me as I walked into the stadium, the fans were in a upward mood. I found my seat and sat in awe of the pitch. I was seated about 20 rows up from the corner flag, so had a good view of the infamous narrow pitch. I asked a nice gentleman next to me to take a few shots of me, before settling down in anticipation of the whistle.
Now, whatever niceties that the fans brought were thrown outta the stadium the moment the referee blew the kick-off whistle. They were cursing, swearing, and fingering the visiting team and their travelling fans. Some were directed to the home team too, as they were not playing their best for a good part of the match. Throw in some very loud chants and songs, and I was sure my GBP250 was well spent. These were not armchair critics sitting at home with a beer in their hands, these were true-blue(red) Arsenal fans. As the match went, I found myself singing the songs, shouting the chants and feeling very Arsenal indeed. Such passion, such veracity, such venom!
These were Gooners!!
As you all know by now, due to some dubious circumstances which will be talked about till the season ends, it ended one a-piece to both sides. I saw from the opposite end that the visiting fans were taunting a group of Gooners after the final whistle in the stands. A whole bunch of stewards then had to form a 3-deep line between them, and managed to clear them out of the stadium with no incidents.
I took a short walk to admire the new 60,000-odd seats Emirates Stadium that was under construction, and wondered when I'll be able to come watch Arsenal play their hearts out in front of their adoring fans again... Till next season then.
Arsenal till I die~~~