I saw the Arsenal from a stadium seat for the first time in my life on Saturday. It wasn’t how I always imagined it.
But let’s take a step back. New York was red long before any gunners took to the pitch at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, and it’d be a mistake to overlook the special things that were going on among gooners in the days prior.
My trip began on Thursday in my home city of Waterloo, Ontario. The first stop came within just ten minutes or so, as I had to pick up my friend and fellow road-tripper, Tyler. More of a Toronto Blue Jays fan than an Arsenal fan, Tyler agreed to go to the Arsenal match if we could also go to see the Jays play at Yankee stadium on Friday (the timing was fortuitously splendid). Anyway, the co-pilot was picked up, the car was packed, and my old, scentless Arsenal air-freshener swung about as a robotic GPS voice barked at us on the long road to New York.
A decade came and went while we drove, but we eventually made it to the Big Apple.
For us, the Arsenal-related festivities began on Friday at noon. We made it to Grand Central Terminal to the Puma #StrongerTogether F.A. Cup event. I left ecstatic, absolutely chuffed to have a photograph with the F.A. Cup to rub in everyone’s noses. I can’t help feeling that the event was quite disorganized though. Little gunners hacked about in a 5-a-side tournament, while a crowd of gooners who were just waiting to see the cup plotted strategies to get to the front of wherever the line popped up (guilty). When the line eventually started on the opposite side of the hall to the side that everyone had anticipated, there was no handbrake, just chaos.
When the dust settled, we were about halfway from the front of the line. We soon found ourselves to be in the company of some Providence/ Boston gooners. There was banter about Toronto versus Boston sports going back and forth, then some laughs about BFG’s dance moves, but above all there was a great feeling of the #GoonerFamily. Top gooners, those ones!
Later in the day we saw the Blue Jays lose to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Due to claustrophobia-inducing scenes in the crowded subway station outside the stadium after the game, we unfortunately could not make it to the 14th Street is Red event later in the evening.
The cannon kept on rolling on Saturday. We signed up for bus transportation organized by the Blind Pig NYC (home of NYC Arsenal Supporters). The Arsenal hangout was a riot by noon, a full hour before check-in for the buses even began. We walked into the Blind Pig to chants of Ooooooh Santi Cazorla, and we were on “Cloud 49” (the number of games that the Invincibles went unbeaten) watching classic Arsenal highlights.
The euphoria just didn’t stop. The singing and the drinking didn’t either, for the record. A personal highlight occurred when a dog was just hanging out, looking down from a second-story window just above where my bus’ line was forming. The line started chanting “the dog’s name is Gunner!” Every time he left the window, there’d be chants to bring him back. Great stuff. Another highlight was the singing of “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” on the bus to the game. The bus windows quivered at the volume we reached.
Then there was the match. It wasn’t in North London, there wasn’t a Clock End, the beer was Coors, and there were no pies to be found. Yet there they were; the famous Arsenal. It was a dream come true. A dream in which Arsenal was surprisingly lackluster and a dream in which Thierry Henry was unsurprisingly mercurial.
From an Arsenal point of view, there was a nice mix of young and old. I had the opportunity to see some of the senior players we all know and love, like Rambo, Super Jacky Wilshere, Rosicky, SZCZ, among others. Promising youngsters like Hayden, Zelalem, and Olsson also played before my eyes. It was cool to see (which is, perhaps the understatement of the century), even if the performance was poor.
And that, my friends, is my account of Arsenal in New York. It wasn’t how I always imagined it. No, it was much, much better than that.