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Tuesday
Nov292011

Parisian Pain in the Rain

BY ALEX SMITH / @TheRSD

It was a Tuesday night and my mate Steve, a Chelsea fan, decided to join me in the Horse and Barge pub to watch Arsenal’s Champions League semi-final second-leg with Villarreal. Despite the pub being completely empty apart from the two of us, the new landlord wouldn’t let us have the sound on – something was said about it being a gastropub. Ridiculous.

I just knew as soon Riquelme licked his lips that his penalty wasn’t going in. I looked at Steve and just said, “Right then, I’m off to Paris!”

Trying to round up all the usual suspects for the Final was a much harder job than I’d been expecting. It had been ten years since I’d sold my bonds in the club, but there was one person I could rely on; my sister Lucy.

We booked the flights in the morning, found a hotel and then I checked with my mate Aldon who usually had a spare ticket or two. We found out he was stuck out in Thailand, but his apprentice said he could sort us out.

We flew out on the Tuesday on a plane full of Gooners and I remember in particular my sis being impressed by the guy in front who had the Double year tattooed on the back of his neck.

On the Wednesday morning we took a trip to the Eiffel Tower where UEFA were displaying the big eared Champions League trophy. I got a picture before watching a few of the other lads in the party getting interviewed by the BBC. There were Arsenal fans everywhere.

As we decided to head to the stadium, we all struck up…

“We’re on our way / We’re on our way / How do we get there we don’t know? / How do we get there? / We don’t care / All we know is we are on our way!”

Of course we did care about how we were getting there. The Stade de France is in the middle of a shit hole so we jumped in a taxi.

I picked up a programme and a pennant and sat down in the pub across from the stadium and waited to do my ticket pick-up. As the day turned to night I watched a load of people get evicted from the stadium who’d obviously sneaked in early without tickets and tried to stay there for kick-off. I even got a picture of some idiot who had tried to climb the gates, only for him to impale his leg! I just sat there thankful my tickets were on their way.

The beer in the pub was extortionate so I went on a scouting mission and found a guy around the corner who was selling crates on the cheap. You should have seen the faces of the guys when I returned. They all broke out with:

“Oooh to, ooh to be, ooh to be a Gooner…”

As kick-off got closer and closer I started to realise that the guy with my tickets obviously wasn’t on his way. I’d been let down. It was awful. But with nothing else for it, we decided to stay put and watch the game in the pub. Then it started to rain. And rain. And rain.

It was a bit of a nightmare really. I could barely get in the door it was so busy, heaving with bodies. From outside while balancing precariously on a few chairs (in the rain), we could just about see the television screen. This is what it had come down to. Watching the Champions League Final between Arsenal and Barcelona on a 12 inch screen from about 20 feet away!

To be honest it was great. It was like being back in the terraces, you’d get suck into the pub as the action flowed from end-to-end. I couldn’t make out much of what was going on, but I obviously knew when Jens got sent off and also when Campbell scored. The rest of the match is a blur.

We didn’t get the result we wanted and the trip was a bit of a cock-up. But that’s what happens sometimes.

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