Image from The Sun
It’s not often I get to see Arsenal live, so when my family and I do get hold of tickets, it takes a lot for us to turn that opportunity down. For the first time in my life, walking away on Thursday night seemed a real possibility.
There was always going to be extra precaution with rumours of over-crowding or potential stadium trouble, and this was certainly the case in North London on Thursday night.
Cologne fans were in the capital to celebrate their first European tie in 20 years, but none of us had really internalised the impact this could have on the match. 20,000 turned up for just 3,000 allocated seats as the travelling fans roamed the streets of London. Despite fears of a postponed match, I took my seat in block 110 of the East Stand, and prepared for our own first Europa League appearance in 20 years. As the game began, the presence of the Cologne fans was certainly felt in ALL sections of the stadium.
The game had been surrounded by negativity. Many Arsenal fans were perhaps not used to the sight of their team playing outside of Europe’s elite competition, and rightly so. Added to that was the tense atmosphere in the run up to kick-off as many perhaps feared for their safety. Once the first whistle was blown, everything beforehand was forgotten and it was just about football.
Cologne fans certainly took more than their 3,000 allocated seats, but there will be no complaints about it from me. In a nowhere-near full Emirates Stadium, the German fans brought atmosphere in the form of chanting, buzzing, dancing and scarf-waving as they cheered on the team in their first stop of this European tour.
It was a joy to be a part of, and maybe proved to the masses that romance in football is not dead. As an Arsenal fan it was hard to watch the Gunners concede the opening goal, but as a sheer lover of football, it just simply had to be that way. A noise around the stadium that I thought couldn’t be topped reached new heights as the Cologne fans bounced up and down in their numbers to the sight of Jhon Cordoba scoring a cracking opening goal following David Ospina’s poor clearance. The Cologne supporters disguised in the Arsenal sections were quickly found out, but it all remained amicable despite a few moans and groans from the home crowd.
It’s rare to see the Emirates in a chanting contest, but Arsenal fans rose to it in an attempt not to be out-sung in their own backyard. Perhaps we had been anyway – the Germans do know how to chant! I’d only dreamt what it would be like to sit in the lower tiers of the Allianz or stand in the yellow wall of Dortmund, but Cologne fans gave me a snippet of what it could be like.
“You’re not singing any more!” and “who are ya?” rang across the Emirates as Arsenal fans found their voices in an improved second half display, but quite frankly the away fans’ singing hadn’t stopped. Cologne fans emptied their lungs till the final minutes and clapped their team off the pitch after a brave display.
In moments like these you can never be too safe, but maybe if you cross that boundary you’ll miss out on opportunities like this one. I’ve been in many great atmospheres but the away support at the Emirates was certainly up there with the best. Despite the bad news of charges given to Arsenal and Cologne for minor crowd trouble, I have to give credit to Cologne fans, it was an impressive turnout.