As we emerge from the fast flowing district of the North London traffic, ever present and constantly onrushing, a journey of a few miles felt like a life time as the taxi meandered its way through the bustle and chaos that is heavy traffic in one of the busiest cities in the world. The taxi trundles to a halt and my foot planted on the hallowed kerb that was home to the resplendent Emirates stadium, home of Arsenal football club.
Its colour and majesty made it stand out from the grey backdrop like the proverbial sore thumb, its large overbearing arch and bold titled letters emphasised further this arena of giants. Titans of the past are painted with flair, their backs emblazoned with the names of legends such as David Seaman, Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp that stand side by side, arm over arm in a team huddle. Just below this tapestry stands a monument to the club’s greatest ever goalscorer; Theirry Henry who is immortalised in bronze in a standard sliding knees position in celebration, revelling in scoring one of his 228 goals for the club.
As the tour is guided inside, there is a testament to the Arsenal kits of the past. A sea of red, white, yellow, and blue forms that many of the Gunners’ warriors have graced hang high overhead with this spectrum of colour adding to the vivacity within this cauldron of footballing history as we embark on a trip through the ages. There is an eerie silence as we enter the kit room. It is about eight or nine times the size of any kit room I’ve ever changed in for sport, and even the quietest of mutterings can be heard reverberating off the crystal clean walls that sparkle like freshly polished porcelain. The club’s kit hangs in isolation over separate hangers, as we contemplate the footsteps of the many giants we are retracing and that have graced this mammoth changing facility.
As we made our way through these shiny red and white corridors, our attention is turned to a treasure trove box, locked away and partially buried behind a glass encasement. We are informed that this box contains such memorable artefacts as the first Arsenal strip, Henry’s boots, Vieira’s captain’s armband and winners’ medals from the club’s successful years. A club steeped in history, ensuring that its powerful memories will stand the test of time and be forever engrained in the halls of the Emirates.
Making our way down the team tunnel towards the pitch is an awe-inspiring sight. The canvas and enclosed tunnel is dark with shades of red that opens up to the view of the freshly cut grass of one of the most renowned grounds in England. The grass is as smooth as a billiard table and the 60,000 plus seats that are scattered in various formations make the stadium reminiscent of a coliseum or gladiator’s arena from thousands of years past. What a privilege it must be to take to such a field, and begin to absorb the atmosphere of the baying fans who come to chant your name every week as you make your way on this flawless pitch.
Indeed, this particular trip is one I will forever remember as for the first time I began to feel a connection to a club that I had cheered for over many years, and got to witness the spectacular intricacies of this world renowned club, the tour completed with the final faint brushing of my fingertips on the cannon that sits in glorious gold outside its home stadium; a symbol of the glorious Arsenal.