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Monday
Dec192011

A long distance passion

BY KIERAN POOLE / @kieranpoole14

Being born and raised in Hong Kong, you might expect me to have a rather distant relationship with Arsenal. I never really chose the team. My Grandad, who was born and raised in North London, did that for me a long time before I was born, thereby by beginning what will hopefully be a long line of Gooners. If it wasn’t for him there’s a good chance I wouldn’t love the Arsenal as much as I do.

Following Arsenal was more of an interest than a passion; the time difference restricting my viewing of any matches to the occasional early kick-off before my bedtime. It slowly built up though and by the age of 10 I had reached the point where I would wake up at 3am to listen to pre-season matches against Austrian village teams just to hear how a rather promising Spanish youth player was progressing.

In November 2005, my Dad was about to head off on his annual four day trip to England to visit his mum when he told me that I was coming as well. Jumping at the chance to miss a few days of school, I travelled without actually knowing or really wondering why I’d been invited.

As we all know 05/06 was the last season at Highbury, and it turned out my wonderful father had decided we should visit the stadium before the move to the Emirates. After being told of the plan, while in a B&B in Oxford, I spent two days in varying degrees of anticipation – I had no idea what going to a Premier League match was like.

When the day finally came we left my Aunt’s West London home with three hours to spare. The journey alone was an exhilarating enough experience – not only did I have an hour of my dad making sure my Arsenal shirt was well covered (the last match he went to was in the 80s…) but I experienced the general unease and discomfort that most do when travelling on the tube for the first time. 

We arrived with a good 30 minutes to spare, and having not eaten all day my Dad reluctantly let me have a burger from a dodgy looking stall in the ground. Never have I had such an enjoyable burger to this day, proof of either the truly wonderful atmosphere there was at Highbury, or that the ground caterers were worthy of a Michelin star.

We sat in a lower section of the West Stand, and everything about the stadium was just brilliant. From the boos heard from even the away supporters as Robbie Savage's name was read off Blackburn's starting line-up, to the occasional uneventful period of the match where a man a few rows in front would jump up and shout, "let's all have a disco."

Everything about the day was perfect. We won 3-0, with goals from my first (Thierry), recent (Cesc) and current (Robin) favourite players. 

I knew two things by the end of the match; I would support the Arsenal for the rest of my life, and that I would never visit a stadium as perfect as the one I visited that day.

 

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