Sunday morning, 26 August 2013. I wake up at 6.58AM for the last time at my hotel in London. A fine (English) breakfast is waiting for me at 8.00AM. I get dressed to enjoy my breakfast.
I grab my bags and my Manchester United jacket before I leave for Kings’s Cross Road Underground Station to pick the Piccadilly Line to Arsenal. I leave the tube at Holloway Road Station and try to find my way. Turning left was a bad idea as it never seems to look like I’d find the stadium, so I ask the road to one of the locals. The fine man sends me back to the station where I came from and tells me to turn left at the university which is located close to the Emirates Stadium.
When I walk further I bump into one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been standing in front of. The Emirates Stadium and the Armoury Square with its cannons and memorial floors impress me. As a non-Gunner I enjoy the view pretty much, probably because of my love for football in general. If I didn’t love football in general I’d never have been to the Emirates, but probably Wembley as it is a neutral ground.
I check in for an audio-guided stadium tour in combination with a visit to the Arsenal Museum, but the man at the desk reports there are only group guided tours available today. What a pity!
The desk guy notices my Manchester United jacket and smiles. “You shouldn’t wear that over here. And surely we knock you out if you like Van Persie in a United kit.” are his words. Before I can anwser him, my mother (who has been around all the time) tells him I adore RVP. I blush heavily and give her a push. The man still allows me to enter the tour as I tell him I love football in general. Later on, a Spurs fan joins the group.
The tour starts with a short walk into a corridor filled with a view of the stadium we’re about to see. After that, we enter a hallway with some stairs where our guide warns the Arsenal supporters among us that we are about to see some silverware. Trophies! We end up in the Director’s Lounge where we take a seat in the most comfortable seats for visitors in the stadium. The view over the stadium from those seats looks great. After the Director’s Lounge we come into the Diamond Club, where you only can arrive if you are invited by a Diamond Club member and are able to pay £30.000 for a seat, with a payment of three seasons in advance. So get to know a member if you have £120.000 on your account and love Arsenal. At this moment, according to our guide, the Diamond Club has an eight year waiting list.
We are going back down using the fancy Arsenal elevators. Downstairs we see a huge Arsenal crest on the wall. Time for a photo… This is the player’s entrance where the footballers leave the bus and make their way to the dressing rooms. By this, we continue our tour to the Arsenal changing room with its futuristic showers and baths, a fine massage room and a special built changing place. The space is built in the shape of a horseshoe, which is said to bring luck and which is a fine construction if you want to see all of your teammates. Finishing his talk on the Arsenal dressing room, the guide leads us through the tunnel which brings us onto the pitch. The tunnel exists of photos of every footballer who has ever worn an Arsenal kit at the Emirates Stadium. I cheer as I see a picture of Robin Van Persie at the end of the tunnel. We take a seat in the Arsenal dugouts and listen to what our guide has to say. I quickly go on a picture with the pitch on the background.
Our tour continues with a quick look at the visitor’s dressing rooms. These contain less modern showers and a square shaped changing space with less comfortable benches. It is said that Sir Alex Ferguson demanded the club to lower the table in the middle of the room so it is better to communicate with a team member on the other side of the room without having to talk to the bags that are on it (compared with Arsenal’s rooms, the table over there is low enough). On the other side, Ferguson said that the dressing rooms at the Emirates are the finest rooms he ever experienced during his career. These rooms have been used by footballers like Messi, Ronaldo and…Van Persie. We leave the room noticing a piece of floor sitting loose, the guide makes it funny by telling us it’s a trap for the Spurs. They could trip and get injured. The Emirates has a total of six changing rooms. After this we enter another corridor. This one has rooms, used for interviews with the players. Further in the corridor is the press room. Again we take a seat and listen to our guide, telling us more about Wenger and the Champions League.
Our tour is almost finished as we enter the technical center of the club, the final stadium location before entering the shop. I leave this collection of (expensive) Arsenal items immediately.
After that, I go further on to the Arsenal Museum. What you see there is obvious: the history of the club and its legends. I buy myself one of those monument coins with the Emirates Stadium on it. Less obvious must be the trophies…
We all mock the Gunners for not having won any trophy at all. But in fact, they have not won a trophy since 2003! Afterwards, I get myself a photo of me standing with my back towards the camera so the name of Manchester United is visible.
This stadium is a magnificent place for not only the Arsenal supporters, but also for those who have nothing to do with the club. It must be a fact that the stadium can be even more beautiful on a tour if you know something about the club’s history, its legends and its current team.