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Wednesday
Nov232011

Truly Invincible

BY PAVLOS ANASTASI / @pav_afc

Ever since my mother sat me down in front of the television and let the 97/98 Double team ‘educate’ me in the art of football, Arsenal have played a prominent role in my life.

I wasn’t taken to watch games at Highbury very often as a  child, but when I did go it was always a special occasion. You can therefore imagine the delight on my face when my uncle, a season ticket holder, revealed he had a spare ticket for the last game of the 2003/04 season against Leicester City.

The chance to see Arsenal go the whole season unbeaten! The chance to see Arsenal lift the Premiership title! The chance to see my heroes in action, doing what they love doing! I asked my parents…actually I begged my parents to let me go and when they agreed it was just the most fantastic feeling.

Travelling to the match on the Piccadilly line, the excitement was palpable. Someone tried to get “Arsenal, we love you!” going, but not many joined in – perhaps it was nerves. Could we go a whole season unbeaten? Leaving the tube we walked out to a clamour of noise, picked up a matchday programme and headed to our seats in the family enclosure. This was it, I was going to watch history unfold in front of me. 

As the match kicked-off I turned to my cousin and whispered: “If it stays like this, we’re invincible!” We were playing beautiful football. Henry had a free-kick which went just wide, Ljungberg was his usual dangerous and flamboyant self – I was sure we’d do it. However, just as I dared to dream so the football Gods threw a spanner in the works – Dickov scored for Leicester. How I regretted daring to dream. I felt devastated; surely we wouldn’t throw it away when we were so close. Was it my fault? Had I made this happen?

Thankfully no. A minute after half time, Henry came to our rescue. Penalty we cried! The referee agreed and the Gallic genius tucked it away with aplomb to equalise. I looked at my cousin again, but this time held my tongue. The Gods were appeased. As the game progressed we tightened the screw and then Bergkamp, my mum’s favourite player, latched onto a ball in midfield. He turned left, then right and crafted a perfect ball to Vieira. I scrambled to get my camera out, aware this could be the moment. It was! Our captain pirouetted around City’s stranded keeper Walker leaving the goal at his mercy. SNAP! I take a picture just as he rolls the ball into the back of the net.

2-1! Highbury went wild and we knew we had done it! Even though there was half an hour left, we knew. We just knew. Keown came on, cue ovation. Bergkamp came off, cue ovation. Pires came off, cue ovation. It was a day for true footballing deities to demonstrate their omnipotence and they certainly did.

I will never forget that day. Vieira lifting the title remains to this day one of my favourite and most cherished memories. Arsenal were, for the time being at least, truly invincible.

 

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