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Sunday
Oct302011

Good things come to those who wait

BY MATTHEW COOPER

The 16th February 2011. For 60,000 Arsenal fans at the Emirates it was perhaps one of the greatest experiences of their time supporting the club. For me, however, the story starts over a dacade before. 

I've supported Arsenal for as long as I can remember, but the first game I recall watching on TV was the 2001 FA Cup final, an absolute travesty of a result as we all probably recall. I was only 8-years-old at the time and it didn't mean much when my dad was so down about the result. The next season though, I was in front of the TV again as Parlour and Ljungberg scored beauties past De Goey and from then on that hairy red stripe has been one of my favourite Arsenal memories.

Despite all my passionate following of the team on TV I struggled to get to watch Arsenal play at Highbury. In fact the opportunity never arose. Even when we moved to Highbury I still found it hard to get tickets to go with my family; there were just too many Arsenal fans going to matches!

Then came the moment that changed everything, my phone rang and I answered, "Hello mate, do you wanna go watch Arsenal vs Chelsea next week? I think I've got a spare ticket.”

My heart skipped a beat, of course I wanted to go! Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out as planned and I had to watch the 3-1 win on television again. Not that I felt too let down at the time, it was a great result.

A short while later the same friend, who admitted to feeling bad about letting me down the last time, said he would likely have another spare. The game in question was in the Champions League...against a squad of annoying Spaniards and a rather good Argentinean. 

My dream of watching Arsenal at the Emirates was on the verge of coming true and against the world’s best team to boot; all we had to do was actually make sure we got the tickets! Using a fake appointment at the doctor as an excuse to get out of school my friend and I sat with three laptops and signed into the Arsenal website, desperate to get tickets.

The sale commenced and we tapped in the details as quickly as we could and hit confirm, then panic. "Error" flashed across the screen and horror across our faces. The moment I'd waited my whole life for was going to pass me by. We frantically refreshed the page and finally the message confirming the purchase of the tickets popped up. To say we were overjoyed would be an understatement.

Then came the match. Unbelievable. It’s the only word I can use to describe the game. I was behind Szczesny's goal for the second half meaning I didn't have a good view of the goals, but that night was perhaps the greatest of my life. Even at 1-0 to Barca, the crowd sensed we could get something, we didn't only sense it, we knew it.

Koscielny played the game of his life and we looked dangerous going forward. Then we finally got the equaliser. Robin Van Persie broke to the byline and somehow from an impossible angle he made the net bulge. There was an eruption.

Five minutes later it got even better. The crowd knew it was coming and as Nasri laid the ball back to Arshavin and the little Russian placed the ball past Valdes their was pure delirium all around the Emirates. I will remember those celebrations for as long as I live, hugging strangers and screaming my heart out. With moments to go, all that could be heard was the Arsenal fans.

Forever in my heart, up the Arsenal!

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