Reminiscences of a Gooner in Paris
March 18, 2010
The excitement is building ahead of this seasons final Champions League draw tomorrow morning.
Remember the draw for both the Quarters and the Semis will be made at the same time.
The road to Madrid will be mapped out for us within 24 hours.
Wednesday 17th May 2006 will bring back memories for many Arsenal fans, some may choose to block that day from their minds permanently.
I choose to recall that surreal day in the French capital with many good memories. I’m sure other gooners who also made the fateful trips over the Channel will agree.
We went down with plenty of dignity, considering we lost our goalie inside the first quarter of an hour of the game.
Season 2005/2006 was always going to be one for the history books.
It was unfortunate the team did not make a serious challenge for the league title in Highbury’s last year as The Home of Football.
The young guns did however prove to be more adept at toppling European opposition.
We topped our Group in late 2005, ahead of Dutch giants Ajax, and were then drawn to play the mighty Real Madrid in the first knockout round.
The greatest 0-0 in Highbury history, saw the mighty Arsenal forge on to face the Old Lady of Italian football, Juventus, in the Quarters.
Another 0-0 followed in the 2nd leg… and Arsenal were through to their first Champions League Semi-Final!
Villarreal stood in the way of destiny.
A magnificent late penalty save by Mad Jens paved the way for Arsenal Football Club to become the first ever footballing side from the capital of England, to grace the final of the Champions League.
A meeting with legendary Spanish club Barcelona was the talk of the sporting world… the two best footballing sides were to meet at the summit of club football.
Arsène Wenger had the chance to lift the treasured “big eared” cup… in his own backyard.
Following the last-gasp victory over Villarreal, every Tom, Dick and Abdul became a Gooner and subsequently started to book up all the available transport.
There was a genuine crisis that was even reported by Sky News at the time… certain groups of fans were even clubbing together and chartering their own planes to Paris.
Or there were those who caught flights to other European cities, and then got on overnight connecting trains to reach Paris.
It was pandemonium.
Luckily for me, my brother-in-law booked up Eurostar tickets online… as soon as the final whistle blew at the Madrigal.
Unluckily for me, only first-class tickets were available, at a cost of £520 per return ticket!
Ok, transport done… now, what about the golden, elusive tickets for a little game at the Stade De France?
Problem, from our group of four, only one of us got an official ticket from the club.
The race was now on for tickets… Sky News were again on the scene reporting the great ticket chase.
This was turning into the greatest chase for a Golden ticket since Willy Wonka opened the doors to his chocolate factory.
It almost felt like half the adult population of the developed world wanted to be at the final.
The usual routes to purchasing a ticket, on and offline, were tested to no avail… we were going to have to wing it on the day, set a budget and pay well over the odds for a ticket off a tout.
Following much excitement, anticipation, and a large slice of trepidation… me and my gang of four arrived at around 5.30am to catch our early Eurostar from Kings Cross.
The BBC were already there, they filmed us ahead of our journey to the promised land, not one single living soul has yet to tell me they saw me on the breakfast news that day.
Bone idol gits were all probably in bed.
Remember, only one of us had a ticket, but for the entire 2 hour journey across the continent, there was much banter and joyful speculation, not a moments worry that we may not even get any tickets.
We arrived at Gare Du Nord in central Paris, at around 9am ish France time.
Plenty of Gooners around the station, nice jovial fun being had by all… how many had a ticket?
Checked into our little hotel, dumped the overnight bags, and the hunt for the tickets began.
First stop, get to the stadium, surely the touts will all be around there…bloody nora, and we thought getting from one end of London to another was bad, this was next level!
Oh dear, Houston we have a problem.
It quickly became apparent that around 16 million other Arsenal loons, had also made the journey over, and 99% of them were also without a ticket.
The going rate for a ticket was now over two thousand euros.
We bit the bullet and agreed we had to go for it, whatever it cost us for 3 tickets, we would club together and get them, by hook or by crook.
Crook being the operative word.
A tout close to Stade de France waved us over, he pulled out three tickets for us, our eyes lit up, he wanted 2 grand a piece… we haggled and got him down a bit… at the moment of cash for tickets exchange, a passing gooner shouted “they are snide”.
This set the trend for most of the rest of the day… the bastard touts out there had a massive fake ticket racket going on, robbing fans out of thousands of euros for bent tickets.
The watermarkey thing on them was off.
We had a let off, the money was still in our pockets… but we now only had hours left before the big kick-off, and it was looking unlikely that we would get those darn tickets.
We made our way over to the Champs-Elysées, the mission was to now find a bar with a big enough screen, decent beer on tap, and a nice spot.
The trek from the stadium to the Champs-Elysées took almost an hour in a taxi, as the game was now a few of hours away, we left our pal with the ticket near the stadium.
Avenue des Champs-Elysées was ram packed with football fans from England and Spain… but we found a nice little irish themed boozer off the main avenue and took our positions.
Disappointed at missing out on a ticket, second best was being in Paris to savour the atmosphere leading up the game, gooners were in great form… the bar was packed right out a good 2 hours before the game kicked off.
Then came the call…
Our pal over at the stadium had bumped into some chaps from London who had tickets, proper bona fide tickets.
We had a dilemma, spend an hour in a cab getting over to the stadium, get there and find the tickets are gone or snide, and then be stuck at the back of some sinkhole boozer missing out on the greatest night in our history.
Sod it, we had to go… live by the sword, die by the sword.
We finally got to outside the stadium with less than an hour till kick off to find said tickets were sold less than 15 flipping minutes earlier, the sellers got nervous about us turning up with the cash, and as we were in nightmare rush hour traffic getting over to the stadium.. we missed the boat.
Now what? Stuck… , we are at least now really savouring all the atmosphere outside the stadium just before kick off, hearing all these rumours about people trying to jump over fences and getting impaled, the great ticket scam was now in full exposure with arguments galore between conned gooners and french stadium officials.
There was a good general spirit around the national stadium of France, fans from both teams seemed to be getting along, some groups were even having their own mini Champions League final games of 3-a-side.
We were lumbered without tickets, the reality did not really sink in straight away, as the euphoria of being so close to the promised land kept as afloat.
It was all great fun, for a short while, but where the F*%K were we going to watch the game now?
The biggest game in our 120 year history, and we were stuck outside the stadium, in the middle of nowhere.
Miracle of miracles, we find a tiny little cafe type, bar type, sort of sandwich shop, bang opposite the Stade de France… with a 15 inch telly, showing the game!!!!
By 20-45pm CET, this tiny little outfit had been invaded by around 200 gooners, all gutted from not being inside the stadium, but content that the game was viewable, from about as close a spot to the real thing as you could possibly get.
A wonderful atmosphere ensued, alcohol was not being served… but I somehow always found a little plastic white cup with some whiskey and water in my hand.
One night in Paris, over two hundred, hardcore Arsenal fanatics, packed into a lovely little family run business, about 50 yards across from the Stade de France and watched the Arsenal lose the Champions League final under heart-breaking conditions… having led, with 10 men, for over an hour.
Never before, and never again, will a tiny little 15 inch telly mean so much, then again…
anybody know if there are any decent little sandwich shops with a telly, outside the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium?