Every team, in every sport, has its icons. This is not news. The news happens when the icons of a particular team are celebrated in a more tangible way than, say, Yankees Old Timer's Day; when a player in the US gets his number retired, for instance, that's an awesome acknowledgement of a well-played career and a nod to that player's place in the history of his or her team. I have been privileged enough to attend a few number retirement ceremonies in my day, recently and probably most memorably the Mariners' honoring of Ken Griffey Jr by enshrining him in the Mariners' Hall Of Fame (shut it. It's a thing).
Arsenal, of course, don't retire numbers - that's not a thing that European teams generally do for their former players. What Arsenal does is better - they put up statues outside the Emirates. There's one for Herbert Chapman, there's one for Tony Adams, there's one for Thierry Henry, and on February 22nd, those three will be joined by an equally legendary figure - that's when Dennis Bergkamp's statue will be unveiled.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>A statue of Dennis Bergkamp will be unveiled at Emirates Stadium on February 22. Full story: <a href="http://t.co/hkhOphRtFV">http://t.co/hkhOphRtFV</a> <a href="http://t.co/sAwWrNoGZ3">pic.twitter.com/sAwWrNoGZ3</a></p>— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) <a href="https://twitter.com/Arsenal/statuses/431828377033392128">February 7, 2014</a></blockquote>
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There's nobody more worthy of a statue (who doesn't already have one, that is) than Dennis Bergkamp; many, many words have been written, in these pages and others, about his talent, his skill, and his awesomeness. If you're a newer Arsenal fan, do yourself a favor and look for Dennis Bergkamp highlights on YouTube; it's a YouTube rabbit hole you won't get out of any time soon.
When Arsenal signed Mesut Özil, I called him "a less flashy Dennis Bergkamp"; they share a lot of similarities, including excellent vision and anticipation, and an ability to pass the ball exactly where it needs to be, even before the person receiving the pass thinks he needs the ball. Bergkamp, though, brought a goal-scoring acumen that complemented his laser-accurate passing; he was as close to the complete package as Arsenal, or as any team, has ever seen.
Most of the time, I'm OK only seeing athletes play on TV. I don't necessarily think "Man, I gotta see that guy in person at least once in my life". There are a few transcendent, otherworldly athletes, though, that I do feel fortunate to have been able to see play in person - that list includes Jordan, Gretzky, Griffey, Bonds, Henry, and Dennis Bergkamp. I saw him play probably five or six times, and every time I saw him, I made sure to spend as much time as I could watching only him. I wasn't there for any of his "famous" moves or goals, but watching him in person was a joy and a privilege, and I'm really happy that the club is honoring him in a very permanent, tangible way.