In my last two Arsenal Journey posts (here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2), I talked about my recent trip to London, where I attended five matches in less than two weeks. There was one more match on my wish list for this trip. The North London derby was scheduled for Saturday, March 2nd at Wembley Stadium. I had failed at my attempts to get tickets for this game prior to my travels, but thought that once in London I might be able to figure out a way.
It wasn’t that easy. I was unable to purchase tickets from the Tottenham ticket office, so I turned to Twitter. There were folks selling tickets here, but to say the prices were inflated would be an understatement.
One of my friends in London happens to know a Tottenham season ticket holder. She cleverly touched base with her and told her that she had a friend in town who really wanted to go to Wembley. (she conveniently left out the fact that I support Arsenal and cannot stand Tottenham). Well this friend came through. Since she is a season ticket holder, she was able to purchase two additional tickets for us. Problem solved.
Except for the fact that we would be sitting among the home fans.
The match was scheduled for 12:30PM on Saturday. I met my friend outside the Wembley tube station and to my horror, I was surrounded by the enemy. Spurs fans were everywhere. Not wanting to find any trouble, I made sure to not wear any team colors and to try and keep my mouth shut.
While walking towards the stadium I couldn’t believe it when I saw that there were guys selling half and half scarfs. Even more amazing was the fact that some people were buying them.
The energy in the stadium was high as the match kicked off. When Aaron Ramsey ran free towards the Tottenham goal it felt like time stood still. He coolly slotted home and for a moment I started to celebrate. I caught myself as I didn’t want all the bummed-out Spurs fans sitting around us to find out that I was the enemy in their midst. I did chuckle to myself though and enjoyed the moment.
Arsenal played great and everything seemed to be going well until Harry Kane did what Harry Kane always does, and dropped to the ground dramatically at the slightest touch to win a penalty for his side. He scored from the spot and celebrated as if he had won the World Cup.
Late in the match Aubameyang was fouled and the ref pointed to the spot. I knew right then that Arsenal were going to win 2-1. I watched with anticipation.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Aubameyang’s shot was saved and the match ended 1-1. It was one of those draws that felt like a loss, but Arsenal played well and took 4 points out of 6 against Spurs for the season.
I’ve always heard these North London derby matches are dangerous with a lot of fighting among rival fans. While I did see some fans yelling at each other while surrounded by police, I didn’t see any hooliganism on display at all.
The worst part of the entire day was trying to get out of Wembley. 62,000 people poured out of the stadium at the same time and headed for the tube. We encountered nothing but human gridlock. Basically we were trapped and had to figure out how to “Escape from Wembley”. Two and a half hours later after two bus rides and a train, we finally made it home. It was truly a nightmare scenario.
The next day I was off to Heathrow for my flight back to New York. I had seen four Arsenal matches and five in total in 12 days. It was definitely an amazing experience.