By Tony Attwood
The rules are quite simple: anyone with a season ticket at Arsenal can apply for and get a ticket for League Cup games. The price is £10 to sit downstairs, £20 to sit upstairs, with a 50% discount for the over 65s.
But despite the low price and the fact it is a game against our local rivals I’m not going. Nor is my pal who I normally attend matches with. Nor are several other people I know.
The reason that my friends give is the atmosphere; that it has become so nasty that it actually removes the fun of the game. I’ve held out against this view, perhaps insulated in my front row seat upstairs whereas they have seats in the North Bank. It is pretty much all season ticket holders in my part of the ground, and mostly people of a certain age range. Not totally, but quite a lot.
Yes we make a bit of noise and occasionally get very excited or angry or frustrated, but of course we don’t do racism, or anti-Semitism or anything remotely like that.
Maybe that’s why I’ve stayed with watching Arsenal v Tottenham longer than some of my friends. Except that on the tube on the way to and from the ground for the League game between the two a couple of weeks back, I experienced it full-on.
The police who were at Arsenal station in numbers did nothing – and indeed there was nothing they could do. The exit route away from the trains within Arsenal station is packed and if the police who stand in that long tunnel did anything it would bring chaos and panic. On the way out of the ground towards the underground station the streets are solid with humanity; again any move by the police would be impossible without risking panic.
So the racists and the anti-Semites can do as they wish – and they did before and after that recent game. It was far, far worse than anything I have experienced since… well back in the 1970s I think, when I did indeed find it uncomfortable, but perhaps because of my youth could put up with it.
Of course I am not directly affected: I’m a white athiest. My only problem with religion occurs where members of a religion want to stop me enjoying my life within the law. So I’m with Rowan Atkinson on this one when he said that as a person who’d made a living out of making fun of religious people he could hardly condemn Boris Johnson for his jokes about the way some Islamic women dress. I didn’t condemn that either. I just want equality: they can do as they want, I can do as I want, and we don’t interfere with each other.
Anyway, whatever the rights and wrongs of my private logic, for the first time I’m not going to Arsenal v Tottenham. Tipped into not going because of the move by my pals, and by the fact that it seems there is nothing to be done about the atmosphere and chanting.
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I’m glad the man who threw the banana skin was caught and thoroughly applaud Tottenham for banning him for life. But can we do more? I am not sure what. Instead I’m going to a dance and will forget about the game. Obviously as ever I want Arsenal to win, but I’ll leave it at that and check the result on my way home.
As for the match: I am not sure there is any more to say on the teams – we really won’t know who is playing until one hour before the game.
What we do know is that lots of people are talking up Mauricio Pochettino going to Manchester United. Or is that Real Madrid. Or Barcelona. Or somewhere largely explained by the reports of him getting a bit miffed about the delay in the move to Newhl* and comments about him not being able to sign anyone in January. So far he has given Tottenham one final (in the league cup), and a couple of semi-finals in the FAC. But surely, if fourth is not a trophy, nor is being a cup runner up, is it? I don’t think we count them, at any rate.
As for the game itself, there were eight cards in the recent match at Arsenal Stadium, and the referee is Jon Moss who hands out more cards than any other of the infamous PGMO brigade. You could play a game of whist with them I suspect.
Arsenal seem to be favourites to win – but only just. It looks to me as if Tottenham are just going to throw everything into attack, which means if we can use our potent forward line to the best advtange it could be a high scoring game. Then I’ll regret not being there. Of course the media won’t comment on the anti-Semitism on the way too and from the ground either because they have a policy of not doing so, or because they simply don’t know it happens, tucked away in their own zone.
And here’s a thought: if we got rid of the special space for journalists, with its table in front of each person and their own personal way in and out of their zone, we’d have room for over 1000 more fans in the ground.
Just a thought: do we really need journalists at the matches?
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