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Tuesday
Nov222011

Home or Away?

BY PAL-DIDRIK HOFF ROLAND / @Somestupidnick

The memory I'd like to share with you is a rather insignificant match, not even an Arsenal win, but it holds some special points for me. It's a bit me-centric, but that's quite often what memories are like. For the record, I went from oblivious to full-on Gooner thanks to Alan Sunderland's FA Cup goal in the "Five Minute Final" in 1979, less than a month before my 6th birthday.

Being Norwegian (and more importantly, living in Norway) I don't get to see Arsenal play live as much as I want to. That being said I've been blessed with many of the games I've been to.  I was there when Ian Wright scored a hat-trick against Bolton to become our all time highest goal-scorer. I was there when we beat Everton 7-0 in Bergkamp's triumph and Edu's last home game. I was there for Dennis' testimonial at the Emirates. And - following some expensive eBay dealings with a Dutchman as Lehmann’s penalty save from Riquelme was being replayed on TV - I made it to Paris for the Champions League final against Barcelona. I have ‘big game’ memories, even if the last included me and my mate having to watch a compatriot send off Jens Lehmann!  

Those games were memorable for all fans of the Gunners,  but let me instead take you back to the end of September in 2004. For Arsenal it started with the ‘Invincibles’ qualifying for the Champions League. For me it also started, unbeknown at the time, when Wenger showed the world he really meant we could go a season unbeaten when I said yes to do a work presentation in Denmark in the fall that year.

At this point it is necessary to specify where I'm from: Trondheim, Norway. The home of Rosenborg, my "other" and local team. They were also enjoying a quite successful spell at the time, well on their way to secure their 13th consecutive league title! The highlights of Rosenborg's Champions League adventures including the knocking out of AC Milan at the San Siro in a "group final" (1-2) in 1996 and beating Real Madrid 2-0 at home the next season, when Madrid went on to win it without losing another match. As many of you might remember, in 2004 Arsenal and Rosenborg met in the group stages of the Champions League.

Rosenborg-Arsenal got arranged for the night before I was supposed to be in Denmark at 10 a.m. [insert swear words]. My local and my favourite team playing each other in an official Champions League match just down the road. I couldn't miss this! I did my very best, preparing the whole presentation, to get one of my colleagues to go in my place. To no avail, this being about computer systems and all of us being pharmacists and physicians [insert more swear words]. I even asked our Danish friends to accept the extensive presentation being given by link and let me off travelling. It fell on deaf ears. I then re-booked my flight to crazy early instead, having to go two more hours by train on arrival, sacrificing a few beers in my mind...

I got the tickets for Rosenborg's home games for me and my wife through the usual phone-in madness, next to the local core supporters. Then I got an offer for tickets among the away fans through Arsenal Norway. For the first (and only) time, I definitely was an away fan at Lerkendal Stadion. My father-in-law got my "home" ticket to go with his daughter, who I should add is a Gooner too.

In the build up all three of us (of course) went to the pub for the away fans. It felt so right to have an Arsenal atmosphere before a match in my own hometown! I separated from the wife (not like that!) and my father-in-law outside the stadium, now having seats in the opposite end. Lerkendal Stadion seats 21,116 - for this match it could have sold out several times. English teams have a huge following in Norway, and we were met by a huge banner stating "Norwegian fans, Norwegian teams!" I'd second that with any other team, but it's The Arsenal, they just don't understand. In the away crowd I even met a lot of Norwegian Gooners (Arsenal Norway got about 200 tickets), people I've had discussions with on the Arsenal Norway forum but never met in real life before. It was a peculiar but absolutely fabulous feeling being so at home ‘away’ - at home.

The match itself was rather unspectacular. We got an early lead through Ljungberg’s strike in the 6th minute, and it felt quite comfortable. But, as we still do, we conceded a Roar Strand super-strike in the 52nd minute and the match ended 1-1. In a way that felt quite "right", as I for once had feelings for the opponent. An "official", unbiased and slightly more elaborate match report (by UEFA) can be read here. Normally not being a very vocal supporter at matches it felt all but second nature to participate in the singing and chanting in this crowd. I’m used to being in the majority at matches having only seen The Arsenal at Highbury before this. But this was different.

For me, one particular sadness was the absence of Dennis through his fear of flying. Still, I thoroughly understood this as I share his predicament. I deal with it by beer, clenching my teeth and pushing through, but then again I'm not expected to play football like a God upon arriving (only rarely to give a talk for about an hour).

Needless to say, the next day I went to Denmark and did my work presentation in an Arsenal shirt.

On a quite Interesting note, Jan Gunnar Solli played for Rosenborg that night, and Henry played for us. At the time of writing they are teammates at the New York Red Bulls. Arsenal won the return leg quite convincingly at Highbury (5-1), which I as so often, both before and after, had to witness on TV. But I could feel the atmosphere from down the road.

Reader Comments (3)

i enjoyed that read, thanks

November 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrebel gooner

Thanks for commenting, Rebel!
A pleasure to share what was a very special Arsenal moment for me.

November 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPål-Didrik

Good read mate. Nice to read an Arsenal blog from a non British perspective. Keep going to those big games.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Martin
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