Coming from Austria, there is nothing to be really proud about our football teams in my home country. My favorite team just dropped to 3rd place in the national league and is out of the UEFA Cup group phase, and the national team would never ever have qualified for a Euro. But luckily, we are hosting it together with Switzerland next year. So from that point of view, nothing better could have happened to me than getting a chance to watch Arsenal London play in the Champions League.
First, let me say a few words about my tube ride to Arsenal. Under normal circumstances, it would have been an easy ride from Camden Town to Kings Cross, changing to the Piccadilly Line and getting off a few stops later at Arsenal. But…oh no. Before I left my house, I checked on the Transport for London web site about the current travel status. More or less all lines were reporting good service. So I get to the Camden Town tube station, get on the first train via Bank when I hear the voice of the driver…”This train does not stop at Kings Cross due to an earlier defective Eurostar train…” What?
Now, it is certainly true that Eurostar trains run from Kings Cross (the station recently got re-opened after some major refurbishment to serve as the new Eurostar Terminal) to Paris. But certainly not on a Northern Line platform. Well, maybe I missed something here, but that sounded quite ridiculous to me. Anyway, what can you do. So I got to Leicester Square and changed to Piccadilly. Standing on the platform there, I heard the voice of one of the announcers at the station…”We are experiencing severe delays on the Piccadilly Line…”. Nice. It keeps getting better.
So after 3 minutes, a train arrives at Leicester Square, packed with people like sardines – which is actually normal during rush hour in London. Luckily, I managed to sneak in. Arsenal is a couple of stops away from Leicester Square and the tube ride was not fun at all. While we were passing stations, the platforms were packed with people, simply unable to get on because of literally no space. Holloway Road station was even closed due to overcrowding. This was the first time I heard Emma Clarke saying: “This station is closed”. Wow.
Approaching the Stadium was really nice, the new Arsenal home is pretty modern and very impressive. With all its comfy seats, the clear orientation system, the video walls and its professional appearance in general, it reminded me of the sport venues in the North America (like Madison Square Garden or GM Place). The game itself felt like an easy game for Arsenal. Unfortunately for them, they felt a little too secure after leading 2-0 by half time. Steaua scored a goal in the second half and could have scored an equalizer, but in the end Arsenal managed to bring home the victory.
Considering the masses of people (attendance was about 60,000) we left a little before the final whistle but still had to queue in front of the tube station entrance to get in for about 10 to 15 minutes. I am sometimes wondering how people still keep their sanity in this city, under these conditions. The thing is: during rush hour, it is actually the same. Every day.
Anyway, enough ranting about the London Underground. Going to an Arsenal game was just great and I am glad I was given the opportunity. I also took some pictures.