Adam Bird

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Saturday, 26 August 2006

Emirates and Updates

Is it really only ten days that I posted my last blog? Work has been incredibly busy over the past two weeks, so being able to post a blog during work-time has been impossible, and by the time I get home the last thing I want to do is to switch the computer on!

(If anyone is in interested in what I have been working on check out the Ferrari Panamerican 20,000 tour!)

On Wednesday evening I was lucky enough to have been asked by my friend Stuart to go with him the brand new Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club. His brother in law was a season ticket holder and had a couple of spares. Keen to keep my tally of football grounds going I could hardly say no!

Having kept an eye on the Arsenal website throughout construction of the stadium I was quite looking forward to actually seeing it in person, even if I was not too fussed about seeing the Gooners themselves, much to the jealously of my Arsenal supporting mother!

We walked to the stadium by going down the Holloway Road from the Highbury and Islington tube station, past various takeaway eateries and boarded up shops, taking a swift right and down a street lined with Victorian three floored houses.

Almost as the street ended it opened up and the Emirates Stadium presented itself; a glowing mass of concrete, shiny smooth lines of metal and neon. It looked as if a space ship had landed and buried itself within a North London Park.

Walking around the ground trying to find our bearings and the elusive block "S", many others were doing the same. I was told of the bloke moaning as he walked past saying how it was a stupid stadium and that at least with Highbury he knew where he was going!

As we entered the "Emirates" I was looking forward to the best part of visiting any new stadium - walking through the doorway from the concourse to the seating area. You get your first look at the pitch (which always looks better under lights), and the mountains of seats that surround the action.

It was without doubt an impressive sight. Old Trafford and Anfield had been the same, but the Emirates was different, which I think was a lack of familiarity. We were not used to seeing the stadium on the television every week, so we were unsure about how the stadium really looked.

The game itself presented me with a few "firsts"; First time I had seen a European Cup game, first European Cup game at the Emirates and the first time Arsenal had played under lights at the Emirates. It was also the first time I had seen a foreign team in action. The support of the Dynamo Zagreb team was amazing. Two thousand people making more noise than the other fifty six thousand Arsenal fans. They chanted non stop for ninety minutes, all clapping simultaneously, all the men with their shirts off and waving scarves around their heads! They must have been knackered by the end of the evening!

Although I was incredibly comfortable in my seat, which was padded, and had more leg room than if I was at home sitting on my sofa, I felt uncomfortable in my mind. It didn't feel quite right, I was watching Arsenal, but I wasn't at Highbury, which to me IS Arsenal. I was in the future, in a ground that was brighter than anywhere I had been before, the pitch was greener, it felt artificial, it didn't feel right. I don't know how the Arsenal fans feel about the new stadium, but for me, some places are sacred, and Highbury was one of those sacred footballing cathedrals.

If and when Liverpool are relocated it is going to be one hundred times worse. Liverpool playing somewhere else other than Anfield, it's not right! It's like blue grass and red oceans, all wrong! Maybe I am just a stick in the mud that cannot move on!

Check out some of the photographs from the night.

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