The Uefa Cup final between Arsenal and Galatasaray is better remembered for the violence that went on around the game than for the football itself. These are my memories of a very eventful few days in May 2000:
We flew out to Copenhagen a day before the Uefa Cup Final. We travelled with high hopes considering we had a great side at the time, but we knew the team were missing a killer instinct. Following the double of ’98 we had thrown away a number of opportunities of silverware. In my opinion we should have won the double again in ’99 but Fergie had different ideas.
When we arrived there were thousands of Galatasaray fans already in Copenhagen and the atmosphere was very hostile. Next to our hotel some Gala fans had decided to get onto the roof with drums to make sure everybody knew they were there.
We kept a low profile in the city centre and headed to the quieter dock area. We had some beers in a bar and chuckled as a Danish Robert Redford look-a-like sang Arsenal songs to a bemused restaurant full of Gala fans.
While we were sampling the local hospitality the Arsenal team walked past the bar. They must have decided to stretch their legs. It was a bit surreal. We chatted to David Seaman and a few of the players. They were in a good mood and confident.
On the way back to our hotel we stopped at another bar. More Arsenal fans were arriving and it was clear there were many others who had come along looking for trouble. We chatted to members of the British armed forces, Chelsea hooligans, Leeds hooligans, Swansea hooligans: all were there for a fight with the Turks to avenge the murder of the Leeds fans in Istanbul at the semi-final a few weeks before. Outside the bar an Arsenal fan was stabbed by Gala hooligans. It was getting nasty.
On the day of the match there were thousands more Arsenal fans in the city. We managed to avoid the worst of the violence and made it to the stadium without too much bother.
The game was very disappointing. Arsenal didn’t show up. The main culprits for me were Henry, Overmars & Kanu (when he came on). Gala lost their best player, Hagi, to a red card in extra time, so we played with a man advantage for almost 30 minutes. We didn’t put enough pressure on them when the game was there to be won. I was gutted after losing the penalty shoot-out. I wanted to rip up my season ticket and flush it down the loo. Luckily I didn’t as the next 5 years were among the best Arsenal have ever had.
That evening we decided to avoid the city centre instead staying in a bar near our hotel. It turned out to be a great night despite having the misfortune to meet up with the DIF Stockholm hooligan firm. They were a complete bunch of idiots that had been there for the trouble too. The bar owner threw them out before they could mug us (Thanks Sven!)
We stayed in Copenhagen for a few more days. Once the trouble had died down we enjoyed the mini heat-wave that the city was experiencing. If you haven’t visited it is a fantastic place. The local were very friendly and the bars stayed open until the early hours of the morning.
On the last day we encountered a small crowd surrounding who we thought was a local pop star. We managed to move through the group to be right in front of this mysterious character. It turns out it wasn’t a Danish pop star it was the Dalai Lama! ‘Hello’ he said as we stood there open mouthed.
A peaceful end to very violent few days that will live long in the memory.
Pete the Thirst