Saturday, 17 May 2014

My Cup Final Experience

Today was a fantastic day for me, as it was for all Gooners. I wrote an article a few weeks ago after the defeat at Everton when all seemed gloomy saying that this could still be a successful season. And it has turned out that way; the long sustained title challenge, securing Champions League qualification and, most satisfying of all, winning the FA Cup all making it a successful season for us.

But rather than write in my usual topical way I just want to blab on about my day and my own personal experience of the cup final. It was probably the biggest emotional rollercoaster of a football match I've ever experienced.

It actually started off with me playing in my own football match. A Santi Cazorla- esque performance in a well-spirited friendly was followed by me returning home to watch the FA Cup build-up from 3pm. My nerves grew the closer it got to kick-off time and I then watched the first 9 minutes with utter shock.

After we went 1-0 down I was disappointed but felt enough enthusiasm to cajole my team from my sofa. But after 2-0 I stormed out of the room in utter panic and anger, kicked over the bin, grabbed my shoes and walked off down the street. I know it's childish but it's cup final day and emotions were running high.

When I got back my Dad told me 2 things. 1 was that Santi Cazorla had scored a belter of a free-kick to make it 2-1 and that Mum was annoyed with me for the bin. Apparently it cost £70. Oops. I then sat down after apologizing and carried on watching the game with a bit more hope and optimism.

I think I screamed like a girl when Koscielny equalized and jumped so high I was concerned about my head hitting the ceiling. It was shear emotion in the house- the dogs not knowing where to look, me probably annoying the hell out of my Dad next to me. But for now all that mattered was the cup. From agony and frustration an hour ago to hope, excitement, joy and relief.

I watched us miss a few chances, getting more anxious with each chance we missed. The more the game went on the more we were dominating and penning Hull back. It was more exciting that way. Bemused at Lee Probert's staggering inability to point to the penalty spot, I sat so much on the edge of my seat that I was close to falling off.

Then extra-time came. I was starting to become anxious about the possibility of a penalty shootout. And worried that it might give me a heart-attack. We missed more opportunities but then the moment came. One of my favourite moments as an Arsenal fan so far, if not, my most favourite. Giroud beautifully back-heeled the ball back to the on-rushing Ramsey who magnificently guided the ball into the inside of the post to cue pandemonium in the Arsenal end of Wembley and make me jump around and scream like a nutter.

Even after that we had chances to get the 4th to settle but my heart was in my mouth when Aluko got in after BFG's slip. Thankfully we weren't punished and minutes later I was ecstatic. The cup had been won. The trophy I, we, had been desperate for for seasons on end. The nerves this week and in particular on the day had been worth it. I watched the celebrations on the pitch at the end with huge pride in my club. The fans and players connecting again and feeling appreciated by one another on the pitch was great to see. Wenger being soaked with champagne by Podolski and then Mertesacker and then being thrown up and down in the air by the players, the trophy being presented and lifted- which I celebrated like a goal, them all celebrating on the pitch, the interviews, the holding hands and saluting the crowd Dortmund-style to cheers. It was truly magical and such a fantastic feeling.

Just seeing Vermaelen, Arteta and co. lifting that trophy is a wonderful sight and something I've been longing to see for such a long time. It puts the demons of Birmingham and Chelsea at Wembley behind us. What was the icing on the cake as well was doing it by going 2-0 down first and then coming back. Like the 1st 5-2 win against Tottenham it just makes it that bit more special; there's more relief and ecstasy. And the cherry on the afore-mentioned cake was my 3 favourite players getting the goals. It's hard to put into words the change in emotion from the 9th minute to the 120th. From despair to utter joy and pride; an incredible, emotional day.


After all that I immediately went upstairs, wrote a cheque for the bin and gave it to my Mum.