Something is different ... a day in the library
It has been weeks of pleasant anticipation and high expectations whilst the first appearance of our Ballspielverein in London since September 2002 came closer and closer. Last Wednesday, Borussia Dortmund together with thousands of Dortmund fans finally was back in London, England, the country, where football-related terms which every our supporters is more than familiar with have been invented: passion, loyalty, ambition ...
But this football does not seem to be anymore, some things have changed, some thing have become different, let us explore the new English football reality:
As mentioned above, anticipations for this game have been endless, but as so often, ticket limitations are the supporters bitter enemies. For this reason, several BVB supporters managed to register as an Arsenal Red Member in order to benefit from the early starting Red Member ticket sale as well as the merit to buy a maximum of four tickets. A sensible measure, if you concern the Red Membership costs of 36 GBP as an extra fee for the certainty of getting a ticket as well as the benefit of additional planning time and security for the trip to the isle. Fortunately for the supporters that abdicated a Red Membership, the Membership Sale for the Champions League match versus Borussia Dortmund was dragging on and to the surprise of the majority, the General Sale started on a Wednesday morning exactly 3 weeks before the match. Within a few hours numerous BVB supporters managed to overrun the Box Office and grab a ticket and thereby paved their way for another overwhelming journey.
The first issue to discuss has been the regulations released for the away supporters by Arsenal officials. Whereas the announcement to relocate the BVB fans from different blocks in order to gather them in block 120 has been warmly welcomed as it provides a more unified away supporter area, the prohibition of wearing away colours annoyed everyone and raised several doubts and discussions.
"Are we really not allowed to represent our clubs colours in London? Do I have to leave my scarf that accompanied me the last ten years at home? Will the stewards really kick me out of the stadium if I wear yellow?" have been the question asked concerning an issue none of us ever had to deal with so far. This was topped off with the hint that supporters are not allowed to stand up permanently, taking the risk of being kicked out if they do so. Both of these issues forced the BVB supporters in advance to reconsider their behaviour in the block with a raising inner conflict between well-behaved adaption and disobedience for the good of loud and colourful support. However, these issues also provide evidence for the new face of English football in which emotions obviously made their way for rationality and regulation, a burden it has to take on as a result of its violent past.
Fortunately, the situation in the stadium was not as bad as expected. Although the entry at the gate was deadly slow, the relocation of the scattered away supporters to block 120 was working well and the southeast corner of the Emirates Stadium quickly filled with cheerful Dortmund fans. The organised yellow cap sale by The-Unity and the decision of disobedience of some supporters furthermore supplied the block with a pleasing appearance, the premises for another fantastic Champions League match were created with two passionate fan bases ready to give their best. But again something did not fit in the picture, where were all the Arsenal fans, those English fans with an outstanding reputation concerning the attributes mentioned in the introduction? As a matter of fact they have not been there yet, ten minutes before kick-off, the stadium was barely half-full, unimaginable for German circumstances where the stadiums are often well crowded at least half an hour before the kick-off. Benefiting from the missing opposite, the BVB supporters launched an outstanding performance in the Emirates, teaching the so-called "Arsenal fans" a lesson they wont forget so quickly. Solely after the first goal there was something that could have been listed as support from the Arsenal side but the black and yellow crowd have rapidly suffocated that.
It seems that in times of the ongoing success from the English top clubs, the Arsenal fans have become heavily spoiled by success. The Champions League group phase as the ultimate competition for each BVB supporter these days, apparently has become something like "normal" for Arsenal fans, it seems like real supporters yielded event visitors. A worrying development and totally different to the expected battle of "two of the most passionate teams and fan bases in the Champions League" as a BVB supporter quoted in advance. The Emirates nickname "Library" is both astonishing suitable as well as simultaneously sad. Where for example in Dortmund team and supporters more and more become a real unity, there seems to be a huge gap yawning between the Arsenal supporters visitors and their team.
Luckily, we managed to bring back passion, loyalty and ambition to Arsenal London for at least 90 minutes, showing them that football means more than just watching a game in the stadium and leaving one fact behind that distinguishes us the most from Arsenal fans: We are not only singing, when we are winning!
Eike (Guest Author), 29.11.2011