This is a description of a fantastic two days, written primarily for my benefit so in later years I can remember details. Please ignore it if bored and get to the comments where we can discuss other things……
Late afternoon flight from a sunny and, as ever, lovely Copenhagen. Many years have passed since I followed my Arsenal into foreign lands against such a quality side – and I must admit I travelled with trepidation hidden behind a calm exterior.
Would Didit arrive on time? Would he have the tickets? Could he drive on the “wrong-side” of the road? Would we find our way to the ground? Could we survive on bratwurst, schnitzels and sauerkraut? But above all, would the Gunners get hammered at the Signal Idana?
At this point I should describe my traveling companion but given the nature of blogs and my innate compulsion to exaggerate perhaps I should limit myself to this – Micky is a top bloke and rose to every challenge (apart from occasional lapses of driving concentration when his co-pilot would scream “your on the wrong side of the effing road”).
So ….. we arrived in Dusseldorf Airport at exactly the same time and picked up our hire car. Didit had booked a sewing machine with wheels but thankfully listened when I insisted upon an upgrade and a sat-nav, without which we would still be circling the airport ring road desperate for a drink and a bathroom. It must be stated that German road signs leave a lot to be desired, No, make that they are completely crap.
We stayed in the Ibis Dusseldorf Airport Hotel ….. You know those Ryanair flights that go to an airport that looks as though it is close to the city of your destination but turns out to be a €50 taxi from town? Well, our hotel was the same – 18kms from the airport with nothing except trees, fields and a bewildering number of roads around it! The reception closed at 10 p.m. and early the next morning we met a chap who was forced to sleep under a tree because he arrived too late!
Weds Morning: Up with the lark (well, Micky was) and out on the road to Dusseldorf in search of a fine breakfast. One of my friends lived there for two years and when I asked “Is there anything you can recommend us to do or see?”, she replied “No, nothing whatsoever!” She was right. Typical grey city centre with lots of the same-same shops and chain restaurants – think Gloucester with a bit of Weimar architecture. We found an old style breakfast place and then left for Dortmund (I had scrambled eggs and MDI something with eggs and vegetables)
An hours drive through industrial flatland took us to the city and we headed straight for the stadium car park arriving around lunch-time. Didit was on a mission, he wanted Bratwurst and so we took a local train from the carpark into Dortmund.
Now think on this …… In Germany a match day ticket will give you free public transport on the day of the game. The ticket cost just ￡37 and we could have taken a return train trip from anywhere in Germany for nothing! TFL are you reading this?
Dortmund city centre was dull and grey and all you would expect from a city which had been pulverized not so long ago by the Valiant Few. We found the town’s best Bratwurst stall and had lunch. No doubt at all – a Lincolnshire or Cumberland sausage is vastly superior, but at least we tried it.
By now it was raining and we looked for the traveling fans. They were easy to find – the noise was our guide. All the red and white were in a square which unsurprisingly was edged by bars and pubs. The atmosphere was rowdy but fun with much imbibing of the local brew. There was a Gooner in a kilt, a middle aged German woman went up to him and asked if what she had heard was true – he turned his back, lifted his kilt and mooned her. She and all the locals loved it!
Didit and I looked for an authentic German bar and found one nearby. Not too many of our boys but a welcoming atmosphere. After a few minutes a couple of “older” gentlemen sat by us and Micky realised he knew one of them from his train trips up from the West Country. We spent an alcoholic few hours with Nigel and John discussing the team and Mr Wenger. I was on a beer called DAB, a fine brew. Didit, being the driver, stayed on the non-alcoholic beers and I have to say they looked as insipid as they probably tasted. Oh, and we ate a dreadful schnitzel cooked in very stale oil.
Onto the ground. We took an absolutely packed train back to the ground where the atmoshere was building nicely. No aggro, just thousand upon thousand of people looking forward to an epic encounter. The BD fans were very pleasant in a condescending way, fully expecting us Gooners to be sadly trudging home a couple of hours later.
Entering the ground was crap. Only word for it. Crap. Everyone was body-searched prior to going through the turnstiles – if there had been a crowd surge (as there would be in England) it would have been a dangerous place to be.
Into the ground. We were in Block 70, left of the goal. The main BD stand – the one in all the vids – was already full of singing fans but the rest of the ground remained half-empty 10 mins before kick-off which cannot be said of the AFC end. There were 3,300 of us and we made one hell of a racket. All the usual songs were being belted out with gusto as the team warmed up in front of us.
There was a DJ and the sound system was so loud it was difficult to hear the BD fans singing their anthems. They did the usual stuff of naming players by their first names allowing the fans to shout out the surname. Just small screens at each corner of the ground, none of which showed replays but perhaps this is a CL directive.
From the first no Gooner sat down – somewhat exhausting for a man of my advancing years..
Just in front of us was a lad with a blow-up model of a Spitfire which he held over his head for most of the match!
Kick Off. I will not write about the game because you have all seen it but I can assure you that apart from the singing in the ground it was a deadly 45 mins. A couple of times BFG saved us and his song rang out. At half-time I was convinced we were doomed, Didit was more confident.
15 minutes of tension, all around us imploring the team to get just one attack or shot. Then it happened. We went absolutely mental. I cannot recall such madness since TA scored against the Spuds at Wembley in the FAC semi-finals. It was bedlam. If we were loud before now we turned it up to 11. The Aaron Ramsey song was sung for 10 minutes non-stop.
Being of a nervous disposition I was desperate for the final whistle and the last 20+ minutes seemed a lifetime, had it not been for the singing I might have had a coronary. But at the same time the team seemed totally at ease and Micky was adamant we had it won – he was right.
Leaving the ground was as brilliant as you would imagine. We were “released” at the same time as the BD fans which surprised me but there was no animosity whatsoever. The BD fans were superb in defeat – if only ours could be. The chaps I spoke to were looking forward to beating Bayern next week and felt they were unlucky but wished us luck.
It had stopped raining. We talked to French Gooners, Gooners from Kiev, Gooners who had traveled from Singapore, 20 Gooners who had come over from Kuala Lumpur for the Liverpool and BD games and were going home on Thursday morning – what a memorable trip they had!
A long but very enjoyable drive back to the Hotel Fleapit during which we reminisced about the game. We spent time assessing our players and giving them ratings which were exactly the same as Arnie’s apart from Mertesacker – we gave him a 10 because we both thought he played a perfect game.
Thursday morning we had planned to do some sight-seeing but quite frankly the weather was awful, the local area was at best dull, and we were exhausted. My vocal chords were shredded (which is bad news for the people who have hired me to sing at their party tonight 😦 ) So we went to the airport and spent a few delightful hours chewing the fat.
In the departure lounge I met a group of Swedish Gooners with whom I travelled back to Copenhagen – a tired but very, very happy Gooner.
Highlights of the trip? The Gooners and Micky. Both excellent company.
Can’t wait for the next time
Written by BigRaddy
And here is the account from the other half of the travelling duo ………..
The Champions League draw is made, and we are grouped with Marseille, Napoli und Dortmund. So, which game to go to?
Mmmm, great food in France and Italy. Beautiful Cities Marseille and Naples. Dortmund has neither, in abundance! Also, let’s not forget that probably the best chance of winning either would not be in Germany. So….where to go?
“I know, let’s go to Germany”.
Why? Because I like the feeling of taking a risk and coming out on top. It’s where the best memories are to be banked, and I knew that although an away win here came with the smallest probability, if, and if we pulled it off, we’d have the “we woz there feeling”.
20:10, November 5th, and within moments of each other two aeroplanes touched down at Dusseldorf International Airport. One, from Copenhagen with a Big Raddy aboard, and the other from London with a Didit and very handsome German Frauline aboard.
Raddy: “Didit, you old git, great to see you. Which company did you rent the car from?”
Didit: “Err, dunno. Forgot to print it out”.
An hour later, and our two heroes pull out of the airport.
Raddy: “Didit, you f***ing idiot, you’re on the wrong side of the road”
Didit: “Jeepers, Daddy, calm down. It’s no big deal”
Didit: “Hey Daddy, just had a thought. We’re in Germany where there are no speed limits”
Didit applies the pressure from his right foot. Raddy, noticeably tensioning himself for impact, goes pale”.
Raddy: ““Didit, you f***ing idiot, can’t you see the 50 speed limit signs everywhere”
Didit: “No, I’m meant to wear glasses for driving. Please relax, there are people in this world with real problems, you know”.
Ok, this is just a taster, or mood setter. To be fair, things calmed down, and although we got very lost, we eventually settled into our digs. Next day, into Dusseldorf. Crap place, don’t bother, but a fine breakfast was had in a lovely pub. Back to the car and up to Dortmund and the ground. Parked. Tram into town. Got Bratwurst Hot Dog. Verdict: edible. Although this from a bloke who thinks raw limpets are edible, but they are nevertheless “disappointing”.
Passed the massed Gooners in the main square, and dived into a lovely old bar. Here we felt settled and happy. We were talking to a great Gunner here, who kept slithering drinks over to his seated, back turned, very rain sodden dishevelled chum. I get another round, and tap said heap on the shoulder. He spins round.
“Didit, you old git, how are you”. Here’s a lesson, and I’ve actually mentioned this guy on here before, but we sometimes chat Arsenal for a couple of hours as we share the train journey back West from The Emirates. He’s about 70, and still goes to all home and aways. Wow.
We spent many very happy hours with these two epic Gunners, and Raddy and I got in the mandatory Schnitzel.
Then, crammed into a train with expectant Dortmund fans, we went to the biggest stadium in Germany, home to one of the noisiest crowds in football, to play one of last year’s finalists, and won.
As for their legendary fans, ok, they do make one heck of a lot of noise, but to me it is somewhat orchestrated. A combination of deafening pa, some git on the pitch before the game coordinating the four stands in turn, and then during the game itself two “leaders” atop a platform in front of the “home” end, facing the fans. For me the effect was certainly atmospheric, but it seems somewhat artificial. There is no doubt in my mind they lack the wit and spontaneity of the English Fan. As I’m sure Chas will testify, the away fans have a camaraderie and togetherness you don’t get at home games. This, combined with being in the minority does appear to gel the boys into a unit who feel “we’re in this together, and we’re fighting against overwhelming odds”. By the way, even these legendary fans do appear to only “sing when they’re winning”.
It was truly a fantastic feeling, and shivers were in me timbers. The three thousand plus Gooners stood from beginning to end, and I don’t believe one did not become totally overwhelmed by the occasion. We sang, shouted, screamed, danced, and sang some more.
Then we scored, and suddenly it was us who owned the stadium. The final whistle came accompanied by sheer unadulterated and complete joy. I hugged the bare chested drugged up lunatic next to me. For that one moment, I really really liked him very much.
As we made our way down the concrete steps inside the stadium, arms aloft while “Aaaaron Raaamseying” at full pelt, I turned to Raddy “It’s not often grown men get to do this”. Then more, “Aaaaaron Raaaamsey, Aaaaron Raaaaamsey”.
Next morning, and having coffee in the hotel.
“Didit, you old git, how the hell are you?” Two more acquaintances from post home game pub drinking. We give them a lift to the airport.
There is no moral or anything to learn from this, but I have never had a better away night as a Gunner.
So, did we make the right choice of games? Big time. I’ve already forgotten about the game itself, but I’ll never forget the experience. Oh, and after two days together, Big Raddy is still talking to me. Double result.
As we parted company, my last words to the Great Man were: “Life is about banking memories. We just did a big one, Daddy”.
Thank you Raddy for being great company, and thank you Chas, for making it possible.
Written by MickyDiIt