Arsenal are obviously a very special part of me. My family and I have been avid fans for the past 15 years. Throughout those years, plenty of things have changed in my life; many for the good and some not so good. But one steadfast part of those years has always been my love for Arsenal. Staying up for 4:30am games with my dad and brother, attending Arsenal vs Manchester United with my family in 1999, my dad picking me up from school at lunch for “doctor appointments” to go home to watch Champions League games, my brother and I receiving Arsenal jerseys from our parents year after year for Christmas. So many great memories tied to Arsenal.
As all Arsenal fans know, the most successful period over the last 15 years heavily relied on the dominance of Thierry Henry. His departure from the team in 2007 was surreal. I remember reading the breaking news, sitting motionless in my cubicle of my new job, staring at my computer in shock. The next four years for Arsenal were mediocre, but obviously missing the success that we enjoyed in prior years.
Fast forward to 2012. With a little luck and careful thought, Henry joins Arsenal for a two month loan deal. On January 9th, 2012, in a frustrating FA Cup game tied at 0-0, Henry enters his first game in an Arsenal jersey in over four years in the 68th minute. 10 minutes later, Emirates Stadium is going nuts when everyone’s hopes are met as Henry skips away from the rest and scores what turns out to be the lone goal of the game. As chaos ensues on my TV screen, I sit in the dark of my room at 2am taking it all in. This moment means so much to Arsenal, it’s fans, and me; but for more reasons other than the return of Arsenal’s legend scoring another game winning goal.
The last time I watched Henry lead Arsenal to success, it was a different time. It was five years and beyond when things were so different. My brother and I both lived at home, I had recently graduated from college, my main concern was surviving the early days of my first job, and relatives who have passed were still around. Thinking back on these thoughts made me realize how Arsenal has turned into a timeline of my life. As I look back on the last 15 years, I can relate significant landmarks in my life with the current happenings with Arsenal. Each Arsenal game I’ve watched has been an escape, a 90 minute getaway when any and all worries didn’t matter. And those 90 minute segments weren’t just games, they’re bookmarks for stages in my life. Watching Henry race around the field last night in celebration on my TV, it was as if he was taking me on a ride through the early 2000’s. I’ve since watched the goal and celebration about 30 times and each time I’m taken back to the past. Sometimes I think about my sports fanaticism, and how odd it is to cheer so enthusiastically for a specific group of people that I have few ties to, if any at all. But moments like yesterday at 2am, sitting in the dark of my room, make me realize how huge a simple thing like a love of a sports team can be.