Monday, 4 August 2008

Emirates Cup

Hamburg 3-0 Juventus (03:08:08)
Arsenal 1-0 Real Madrid (03:08:08)

Our pre-match venue - The Gunners Pub.

Highbury - or what's left of it.

Who is it sponsored by again?

Welcome to the cheap seats.

What happens next?

Football is back.

Did it ever go away?

That's enough pictures of the ground - Ed.

Initially I was somewhat reluctant to post up reports of any games I attend here in England. However, with Arsenal arranging what was essentially a European Football Weekend in the space of four hours, ninety minutes from EFW headquarters – this seemed a fair opportunity to include one.

Any football fan will tell you that pre-season friendlies are about as turgid as it gets in terms of entertainment. It did not stop 60,000 punters turning up for this fun-fest though did it?

Unless you are an Arsenal fan (not guilty) or fancy seeing Bruce Springsteen play (marginally better option), then it’s actually quite difficult to get into the Emirates Stadium. That’s unless you want to sign up for some cock and bull membership scheme or gain entrance in the away end if a team does not take up their full allocation.

With this being a friendly….sorry the all important Emirates Cup, it was fairly easy to obtain tickets in advance. Big Deaks and I parted with £40 (plus booking fee) to witness these two kick abouts.

I’d been to Highbury a few times before but this was my debut at the Emirates. Jesus H.Christ – Emirates, Emirates and thrice Emirates – I’m going to bill them for advertising after this. We got the train from Brighton to London Victoria and then jumped on the tube to Finsbury Park. Deciding that a pre-match drink would be most welcome we popped into the Gunners Pub on Blackstock Road. This pub featured on the film Fever Pitch and is bedecked head to toe in Arsenal memorabilia. £3 a pint if you're interested and non-stop Arsenal songs pumping out at full volume. Big Deaks and I were the only ones not in replica shirts.

From there we made our way nostalgically past the old Highbury ground which is now being redeveloped and converted into apartments, in a project known as 'Highbury Square'. Probably the greatest day in the history of Highbury occurred in 1983 when Brighton beat Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup semi final. I got a bit misty eyed reminiscing as we strolled around there but then I'd just consumed some early morning beer.

From Highbury we then skipped merrily along past Arsenal tube station, over a bridge and literally a few hundred yards from the old ground to the Emirates Stadium. So what's it like!? Well, it's alright. It just about saves itself from looking like every other new stadium as the upper tier is contoured to leave an open space in the corners of the ground. The enormous roof is canted inwards and if you sit in the cheap seats at the top, it almost looks as if it's all indoors. I award them 5 FIFA stars for the seats though - they are padded and the size of a bus - marvellous.

Inside, Deaks and I cast aside the temptation of a dry, cardboard slice of pizza and a warm bottle of Carlsberg and settled on a £4 chicken balti pie. Pleasingly, I was able to extract a smidgen of moisture from it and as such I would only claim it to be 100% overpriced - not too bad.

So to the games then - first up was Hamburg v Juventus. Hamburg were 'up for the cup' as it were and at one stage I'm almost certain that one of the players had a bead of sweat that had to be mopped from his forehead. Juve on the other hand couldn't have given a monkeys about the match and were there just to pick up their considerable fee just for bothering to show up.

Hamburg had two players that I will be signing for Brighton next week. Bastian Reinhardt who is a 6ft 4 centre back. I think the cliche goes something along the lines of he was 'commanding at the back'. The other chap is the Egyptian striker Mohamed Zidan, not to be *snigger* confused with *ho ho* Zinedine Zidane - oh stop it you are killing me, bestow my aching sides. Anyway, he was fleet footed, agile and had lots of tricks in his locker - thanks for coming.

The Hamburg fans treated it like a cup final which is not a criticism of German fans – in fact exactly the reverse – they treat every game like a cup final which is why I’m so taken with them. As Ivica Olic smashed in two goals in injury time to effectively clinch the Emirates Cup for Hamburg their fans wheeled away in transports of delight across the stands - good luck to them.

Half an hour after Hamburg had easily seen off Juventus (like a pack of small puppies) it was time for Arsenal and Real Madrid to put on a show. Arsenal played the first team and had 60,000 fans to impress whereas Real Madrid - tired from collecting money from friendlies in all four corners of the globe - were poor. It was good to see a lad called Jack Wilshire come on for Arsenal - he is going to be a star and no mistake. He is English (!), only 16 and looks like some prospect.

To be honest the Arsenal fans got on my nerves. They booed Robben (for having the temerity of playing for Chelsea), Rudd Van Nistelbus (because they have heard of him), Heinze (played for Man Utd) and gave Adebayor some "jeers of disappointed love". Their one song was 'stand up if you hate Tottenham' - well done everybody. I also overheard lots of anti Ashley Cole banter (get over it lads) and spits of anger in the pub when Jermaine Jenas appeared on the box. Maybe I'm getting old but whatever happened to exerting a bit of energy in backing your own team?

Adebayor scored the winning goal by smashing a penalty into the roof of the net. Comically he then ran to the crowd and kissed the Arsenal badge twice. The fans who'd been booing him for wanting to move to Barca instantly changed their tune and suddenly he was king of The Arsenal again. He got a standing ovation when he became the 456th substitution of the day. Nowt so fickle as folk.

After the game and purely to let the crowd die down (honest) Deaks and I engaged in a pub crawl along the Blackstock Road back to Finsbury Park tube station. We ticked off the Arsenal Tavern, Kings Head, The Blackstock, The Twelve Pins and The Gas Light. Clearly after watching two games of football in a single afternoon we'd built up quite a thirst. A good day out then aside from some whinging, moaning, boring, nincompoop Arsenal fans.

So in the unlikely event that anyone is still reading this, what do you think about further reports from English matches I attend? Shall I start adding the odd one to this blog, shall I keep it strictly for European games or do you not give a rats arse either way? Does the backlash start here? Let me know by leaving a comment below or emailing me at


mark-nbfc said...

The more reports the better! I really enjoy reading them.

Nuneaton Borough/Town Fan

TeamSplashi said...

Great blog you have here =)
I really like reading it.
Cheers from Rose city