A group of 10 avid Arsenal fans AKA Gooners had planned to travel from Chennai to Singapore and watch Arsenal in action during their Pre Season Tour. This is a recollection of how everything happened. Now that little background has been provided let’s jump right in.
13 July, 2015
I was rushing back from Kuala Lampur via road early in the morning. A long queue at the Immigration counter resulted in me getting abandoned by the bus and there I was stranded in Johor Bahru at 4 AM. Definitely not the way I had hoped my day would start. Well at least I knew Arsenal was landing in SG that day. Didn’t know where, didn’t know when but hey something is better than nothing right ?
Fast forward a couple of hours and I was back at my relative’s place. We then learnt from Arsenal Singapore’s FB page that the team was set to land past 5 PM at the Private Terminal. The other guys from Arsenal Chennai Supporters Club had already landed a couple of days ago and we were raring to welcome the Team in style. The day was spent trying to track down tickets for the Open Team Training Session the next day. I had emailed Arsenal requesting a few tickets for the Training before I left India and they were kind enough to send some via courier to SG. Only problem was the tickets hadn’t arrived. I started panicking by Sunday and mailed them back.
By 3 pm news trickled in that Arsenal would be landing at 4.30, a bit earlier than reported and there we were running around in the impressive Changi Airport trying to find a way to Jet quay, the private terminal. We reached at 4:15 to find a group of Gooners waiting outside the gate. The Chanting began in earnest and my current favourite “What do you think of Tottenham” was sung quite a few times. 😉
After a bit of wait we could see the Bus in a distance and could vaguely make out a few heads. The guys got louder ( if that was even possible ) and hearing us, out came the journalist taking pictures and videos of us chanting. After chatting up a few of them, we learnt that the Team was set to stay in Shangri La, Orchard.
Within a few mins the Cops were trying to get us to stand back and the bus started coming out. I just couldn’t believe it. Here I was about to see these guys who we have only seen on the telly. The first person I spotted was Steve Bould sitting out front. The bus started moving past me and I started seeing the players who were watching us with interest. First was Olivier Giroud, then Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny, Szczesny, Chambers, Theo and finally Akpom if I remember the order correctly.
Chambers even posted this video of us welcoming the team a few hours later.
To say we were delirious is an understatement. I had my phone in my hand and forgot to click pics or take a video in the heat of the moment. We checked with the guys on the other side of the road and realized no one had seen Arsene Wenger in the bus. So we geared up for the second bus. The Arsenal Photographers walked out and I recognized Stuart Macfarlane while he was taking our pictures. We spoke a bit to him and when my friend mentioned he had the dream job, he cheekily replied “It’s alright ”.
A few mins after they left, the Staff bus started rolling out and there HE was!!! We could see ARSENE WENGER sitting upfront reading something on his phone. He was startled when he heard us and looked up in surprise. He cut a charming figure in his glasses. None of us gathered there had eyes for anyone else but him. People started chanting “There is only one Arsene Wenger ” and my friends started running after the bus. I was stunned and stood rooted to my spot at the entrance. This was beyond my wildest imagination. I knew I should have expected this but to actually see your heroes a few feet away from you in person knocked the wind out of me. They are the same people you stay up at ungodly hours to watch play football. My friends despite their valiant efforts were unable to keep up with the bus. Kudos for trying though.
We lingered around, spoke to the guys from Premier League World and wandered back to the airport to sit down and calm our already shot nerves. And there sitting on my mailbox was a mail from Arsenal. Since the training tickets hadn’t arrived yet, they asked us to collect the passes from Shangri La the next day from the event manager and asked for our details. To say we were over the moon was an understatement.
We started hatching plans to wait around and try to meet some players while we go to the hotel. While all this was happening the guys started noticing that our pics of welcoming THE TEAM had been shared on twitter by various journalists. We decided to head over to Molly Roffey’s, Arsenal Pub in Singapore for a drink.
En route to the pub to our absolute delight, we found that our Pics were shared by Arsenal on Facebook and our video was there as well. The icing on the cake if you will. We were absolutely chuffed. I mean come on, The Arsenal had just posted our pics.
You can see part of the ACSC contingent including yours truly singing “ We love you Arsenal, we do” in this video posted by Arsenal
We even seemed to have made it to DailyMail, ChannelNewsAsia among many other news outlets. A pleasant surprise 😉
Had a few drinks at the pub, met the local Gooners, some of whom recognised us from the Airport. We also met the other travelling contingent comprising of Gooners from America, England, Australia and Philippines. And there sitting with the blokes from London in the next table was Jill Smith. I had heard about her from her days at the club and from my friends with Bangalore Gooners. Jill Smith had retired a couple of years ago after 40 years of serving the Arsenal. We learnt that she still travels with the Team even after all these years. I doubt if you can find a more loyal, wonderful supporter for our great club.
The perfect day to a most extraordinary day. I thought this would be the best day of the week and boy was I wrong. Much bigger and better things were in store for our gang.
Up the Arsenal!!!