Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Joining the prawn sandwich crowd

Fans arriving outside Wembley Park station in glorious sunshine. © Magnus Andersson

The other week I managed to get some freebie tickets for the FA Cup semifinal at the new Wembley between my beloved Arsenal and some other team from London with Russian ownership. It was a VIP ticket with us being expected to arrive at 2pm and not leave until 8.30pm...for a game of football? Seemed a bit much. Turns out that there were lots of stuff on the agenda, various performance's, famous ex-footballers (Martin Keown & Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank) being interviewed, quizzes etc.

Me and my colleague Valroy rocked up perfectly late; just in time for the splendid three-course dinner. On our table were a journalist from Radio 2 and his wife, two local news reporters, a couple of business men, a rep from McDonald's (who sponsor the FA and had invited us because of a story we did on a series of South London McD franchises earlier in the year), and lastly, an unknown middle aged married couple.

It turns out that the married couple were none other than Don & Lynn Walcott, Arsenal & England forward Theo Walcott's parents. In the presence of greatness indeed. As it happens, everyone around the table were Arsenal supporters as well, so it was great company. The odd one out was Valroy, who hadn't sussed that Theo's parents were present, and before we could stop him, he asked Theo's dad if he was a Arsenal supporter. Doh!

Apart from Arsenal playing rather poorly and losing the game, the only other disappointing part was the section of Chelsea fans in the tier above us. Valroy missed the last five minutes of action on the pitch as he had to look up above him the whole time; the Chelsea fans were spitting on us below and Val got hit twice. Disgusting behaviour from those fans, and also very poor stewarding at the new and "improved" Wembley for something like that to happen. On a lighter note, perhaps it was just dessert for Valroy - normally a staunch Liverpool supporter - who decided to support Chelsea on the day? (Only joking Val, nobody deserves what you got). Pictures below, click to see slightly larger version.

Arsenal flag in front of the Wembley arch. © Magnus Andersson

Valroy and me outside the FA's VIP Club. © Magnus Andersson

Blue on the left...Red Army on the right. Fans are separated on arrival. © Magnus Andersson

The sun shines on the Gooners half, at least early on... © Magnus Andersson

Sadly the glory wasnt with us for long. © Magnus Andersson

The teams line up before the 17.15 kick-off. © Magnus Andersson

Theo's parents Don (flexing his bicep in his Arsenal top) and Lynn (nearest) celebrates their son's opening goal for Arsenal. Seconds later I shook their hands to congratulate both of them, BIG moment! © Magnus Andersson

After the match, the fans are again divided and 'staggered' by mounted police. © Magnus Andersson

The Wembley arch in the evening light. © Magnus Andersson

Goodnight and good luck. © Magnus Andersson

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