Ya Gunners Ya! COYG! Good to be a Gooner! We love you Arsenal, we do!
These are all expressions, hashtags, and chants that football fans will recognise and Arsenal fans will relate to. These are a few of the things we hear on tv while we watch the English Premier League on our tv screens. In February, these are things I heard, and said, at THE EMIRATES STADIUM! Yes, folks. I was at the Emirates stadium and, this time, I watched Arsenal play live!
Most of us crazy football fans dream of watching our team play live. The ultimate dream, I think, is to watch your team play live and at home…and win! If you’re lucky or your team is good enough you might even watch them smash their biggest rivals or win a trophy.
That dream came true for this crazy football fan on 24 February 2019 when the Gunners played and beat the Saints in the English Premier League. And we won two-nil! *
*For non-football fans, that is when Arsenal FC played Southampton FC and won two goals to zero.
While I was exploring England and living in London I got myself some tickets to watch Arsenal kick some footballing butt. I was not disappointed.
The entire journey to the Emirates and arriving at the stadium I was shaking…and smiling. That feeling of squeezing onto the already-full Piccadilly or Victoria line with a tube filled with Gooners dressed in red and white is like no other. We had a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect as we all hoped Unai Emery (the Arsenal manager) would put together a lineup that would get us that much closer to the top of the log. As the tube screeched its way into North London, and we held on tight (to the train and to hope), we were all thinking the same thing: “Win those three points today, lads!”
Getting off the tube at the Arsenal station (yes, the tube stop is named Arsenal), I was blown away by how many Arsenal fans were there. I have never stood amongst so many Arsenal supporters in my life and it was exhilarating! I am the sole Arsenal supporter in my immediate family of Manchester United fans so I am often alone when my team wins and alone when we lose. I don’t get to celebrate or be sad (or angry) with anyone who truly gets it and feels it. My family will sympathise or congratulate but for them the outcome only impacts on where United sits on the log – for me, sometimes it can make or break my whole day. So, walking to the home of Arsenal surrounded by people who love Arsenal as much as I do was amazing and comforting.
We all walked the short distance from the tube to the stadium surrounded by people selling food, merchandise, programmes, and memorabilia. As I walked through the crowds of people I kept thinking how incredible it was to be there.
After security checking my bag and me making it through the turnstile still shaking (and not knowing where to insert my membership card until the security guard made a witty comment about how to access the stadium), I was inside.
I was inside the Emirates Stadium. The home of one of the world’s greatest football teams, and the place where one of my dreams was coming true.
I found my seat easily and I sat enthralled as players I have only seen through tv, computer, and mobile screens walked out onto the pitch to warm up. I struggled to believe that I could actually see the players I love with my own two eyes. I watched the game with excitement and deep gratitude.
Six minutes into the game I found myself standing up, arms in the air, handbag clutched in my fist, mouth wide open with screams of delight escaping from my throat as Alexandre Lacazette skilled a ball into the back of the net. I couldn’t even hear myself scream as the whole stadium just erupted as he scored. Perfection! A stadium of strangers screaming for joy and wanting to hug each other as the ball went over the line. That is, except for the Saints fans who hearts must have fallen to their feet.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan assisted Lacazette with this goal but five minutes later Micki scored the goal that sealed our victory. These are just two of many players I watched move with grace, skill, and speed across the field and around the Saints players.
When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a Gabonese player born in the same year as me, came onto the field I hoped that he, too, would score. He didn’t but we won the game and I was there to experience it. I didn’t just see the win; I lived it.
And wow! Just wow! Since then, Arsenal has beaten Tottenham Hotspurs, our north London rivals, and Manchester United, one of our fiercest rivals all at home. And as I watched these games through one screen or another, I could hear the crowd’s screams ringing in my ear as I relived the time my dream came true. The time, I was in the Emirates Stadium when my beloved Arsenal played a home game and won.