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Monday
Mar192012

On Peut Le Faire

BY PAVLOS ANASTASI / @pav_afc

Part of my degree entails me spending a year in the south of France, which I admit has its benefits. The sun, the sea, the ski slopes...all are easily accessible to a student and far be it from me to complain about them! However, the biggest issue with this arrangement has been supporting Arsenal from afar. It has been said on Twitter that this season has made people fall in love, if possible, even more with Arsenal and this has certainly been the case for me.

It has become almost a ritual for me to wake up late on a Saturday morning, blearily reach for my laptop and find a stream through which I can watch my beloved team, whilst following our progress on Twitter when the internet fails me. I've become known as 'Le Gooner' amongst my fellow flatmates, all of whom are the first to congratulate me/sympathise with me depending on the result. I like to think I have done my own little part to represent Arsenal in this most cultural of countries, even though I am unable to visit our wonderful stadium.

The match away to AC Milan was, I concede, a low point in what has been a memorable season. Losing 4-0 was harrowing, more so the way in which we allowed ourselves to be dominated on the pitch (if you can call it that). It hurt. This was the year that we were meant to do England proud in the Champions League, not to mention the chance to put one over the Manchester clubs, who had both bowed out during the group stages. 4-0 just wasn't in the schedule. My flatmates saw my hurt, saw the pain as each goal went in, and thankfully held back with the taunts. As soon as the match finished, I turned around and said 'Oh well, we'll have them 5-0 at home,’ more out of blind faith than determined conviction.

Matchday drew closer and with it my nerves increased. I'd never before felt like this before a match, even that match against Barcelona in Spain. The odds were so against us, we couldn't do it could we? Yet, as a temptress works her wonders, Arsenal knew the way to tease me into believing. Victory against Spurs, no, thrashing the old enemy had lifted our spirits. That last minute van Persie wonder volley against Liverpool had consolidated the momentum. I knew one thing for certain. We were not going to lose to Milan at home - call it blind faith, call it determined conviction, I just knew.

With half an hour to kick-off, I sat there eating dinner and talking to my friends, trying to explain what I was feeling but struggling. Could we really put at least 4 goals past an AC Milan side so dominant two weeks prior? I fidgeted, I paced, I sat down, I stood up endlessly. Finally, kick off and 14 days of anxiety and worry would be justified in 90 mins. Six minutes into the game and we won a corner but my stream stopped. I opened Twitter to the news that Laurent Koscielny had powered in a header to give us the lead. Delighted, I stormed out of my room and ran to the other end of the corridor, past 20 rooms, shouting 'YES YES 1-0!' What a start, the perfect start in fact! I closed Twitter, determined to watch the next goal (I knew we would score again).

15 minutes passed, but with no goal I began to fidget again. We needed another goal to go in at half time 2-0 up, a dream scenario for many fans before the match, but for all our attacking prowess, the Milan defence was holding resolute. Another five minutes passed...then Rosicky struck from inside the area. 2-0! This time, I jumped up and ran the same route up and down the corridor. Some of my quieter flatmates opened the door in bemusement at my antics, but I didn't care. Come on Arsenal! 2-0 at half-time would be a perfect result!

The break swiftly approached and I began to smile, grin even. This wasn't mission impossible, this was mission redemption and we were halfway there. Then it got even better. Oxlade-Chamberlain was blocked off in the area - PENALTY I cried from the south of France! PENALTY cried the thousands at the match! PENALTY agreed the referee, and I cheered!

Robin van Persie, our captain, our talisman, our leader stepped up and slammed it home. This time, elation got the best of me - I whipped my Arsenal top off and ran the length of that same corridor, screaming 'WE CAN DO IT!' A Frenchman opened his door, I yelled 'on peut le faire! On peut le faire! We can do it! We can do it!' He smiled and closed his door. Continuing my run, I dropped to my knees and slid à la Henry down the corridor and stopped perfectly outside my door, pumping my fists as pleasure and happiness coursed through my body - we really could do it!

Half-time came and I couldn't wait for the game to get going again. I was absolutely exhilarated, convinced that I was about to witness the miracle of all miracles which somehow no longer seemed like a miracle. At that moment in time, nothing else apart from my beloved Arsenal mattered and by God, they were repaying my faith in bucketloads!

As it was, our first half exertions (mine included) were ultimately too much and try as we might, we couldn't find that fourth miracle. The final whistle blew and emotions raced around my mind. Never had I been so proud of my team, never had I willed us on to victory so much before and never had I felt so gutted - we deserved more, much more than this 'glorious failure' as the media called it.  Exhausted, I went to bed dreaming of a night full of promise, hope, emotions and my Arsenal.

The marks outside my door from where I skidded are still there. My reputation as 'Le Gooner' is still there. I still remain in France for the time being. But more importantly, my love for Arsenal is still here, stronger than it ever has been. Why? Because on a night where I triumphantly proclaimed to the world at large that 'on peut le faire', that 'we can do it', the hope remains that one day, we actually will… 

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