Indesit Football EventPosted: May 18, 2012
On 16th May 2012 I had the pleasure of attending the Indesit Football Tournament at the magnificent Emirates Stadium, among the esteemed company of Sian Macalarny, the Goonerholic, Rob Marrs and Dan Mobbs, among others.
Before the actual football started, we were congregated on the pitch, by the dugouts, when Dan and Adam took a football and despite not strictly being allowed, ran onto the empty pitch. I quickly followed, and here I opened my Emirates Stadium account; an account which was promptly closed a few minutes later. But still, I’m basking in the glow of scoring a rebound tap-in at the Emirates, after my attempt at a Panenka-esque chipped penalty was saved.
The four teams competing were Arsenal, managed by club legend Robert Pires (more on him later); Shakhtar Donetsk, managed by the brilliant Jean-Pierre Papin; Paris Saint-Germain, with Gianfranco Zola at the helm and AC Milan, who were being coached by former Milan forward Daniele Massaro. The first game was contested by the hosts and their visitors from Ukraine. The final score was 4-1 to Shakhtar, in a comprehensive victory, illuminated by a glorious chip on the 18 yard line by the one Shakhtar man with no number on his back to make it 3-1, as well as a free kick closer to the centre circle than the penalty box which put the proverbial icing on the cake, paving the route to the final for The Miners, and confining Arsenal to the third place play-off, wherein they would face the loser from the game between PSG and Milan which would follow.
While the Parisians provided a stronger challenge for their counterparts than Arsenal had Shakhtar, they were cast aside by the eventual champions. Milan had an unrivalled efficiency and verve in their games, and eventually ran out as deserved winners, reigning victorious in the final. Although Arsenal took the lead in their third place play-off with a delightful outside-of-the-boot shot from their only female – and incidentally their best – player, they were unable to stop PSG clawing them back and grabbing the lead, and taking the third place spot. Third and Fourth places both got trophies for their troubles, which I am sure will have delighted Arsene Wenger, in the ground his side call home! On Arsenal’s team, there was a player clad in the number 2 with the surname ‘Pastore’ above his name. Was this perhaps a first Emirates outing for a potential Arsenal signing?
The main event of the day for me personally was the half an hour granted to the other bloggers and me to talk with Robert Pires. In spite of his slightly fractured English and my worse French, the six of us were engaged in a conversation which took in everything from his favourite goal for the Arsenal to his potential plans for the future and whether he wished to make the leap into management, while not yet being retired from the game. The former number 7 managed to look resplendent even in a white Arsenal tracksuit, and does not appear to have aged a day since 2002. If anything, he may even look slightly younger.
The highlights of our conversation were his description of Arsene Wenger as a “second father”, saying he was “fantastic” both as a man and a manager. His favourite goal, unsurprisingly, was this piece of artistry against Aston Villa, while he confirmed the rumour that in his short time with the Villains, he did in fact stay in his flat in the Highbury Square Development and take a taxi up to Birmingham every day. He discussed the idea of becoming a manager, but admitted that the pressure of the job would be difficult to handle and that his preference would be a role in the backroom staff (although there are no instant plans).
What was very heartening to hear was him talk about the friendships he has retained from his time at Arsenal. In recent years, yet far less so this season, Arsenal have had a very split squad, in contrast to the Invincibles, whose unity one of their overriding features, and was no small factor in their success. He talked about the contact he maintains with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, as well as Jens Lehmann, with whom he played five-a-side a few weeks previously (though claims he was “not very good” outfield), although he has forgiven him for his Paris (ahem) misdemeanour. Another he mentioned was Patrick Vieira, whose Twitter feed makes for painful reading for Arsenal fans, but he alluded to his happiness for his friend, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri, the latter of which was greeted with something of a swift silence among the Arsenal contingent at the table!
Though this silence was nothing compared to the brief moment of terror caused by a brief miscommunication on the part of the language barrier. Sian, asking a question so many Arsenal fans have asked of one another, asked of Pires “what do you think of Tottenham?” Those who knew the terrace chant smiled among one another, though these smiles were swiftly wiped upon his answer of “I love Tottenham, Tottenham are my team”. The table was stunned at this answer. Either he could feel the surprise emanating from us, or he had pre-planned this beautiful play on words as he continued “I scored many goals against them”; the smiles returned to his and our faces as the conversation continued. I prefer to think he knew the reaction his saying “I love Tottenham” would have among Arsenal fans.
Following the end of the conversation, autographs were signed and pictures were taken, at which point I was confronted by a brief moment of horror, realising that I had forgotten my old ‘Pires 7’ shirt at home. A look out of the glass front of the Emirates showed not only a Highbury engulfed in rain, but one confronted by a nasty bout of hale stones. Still, with an H&M umbrella as my only means of protection I sprinted from the Diamond Club, umbrella aloft, flailing in the wind, probably looking oh so ridiculous, toward Arsenal Station, from whence I ran faster than I have in some time, picked up the shirt, and restarted the sprint. Only thankfully now the thunderbolts and lightning (which had been very, very frightening me, though I have no idea what Galileo would have made of this all) had ceased. Upon returning, a more haggard form than the me that had left the Diamond Club 15 minutes earlier, Pires signed my shirt. As a man of Arsenal, it was my very own religious pilgrimage (round the corner and back).
The day was completed with a tour of the Emirates Stadium, which was even nicer than I remember it being on my last tour, just after its opening, back in 2006. We visited the home dressing room and the media area before returning up to the Diamond Club, to end the day.
I’d like to thank Adam and Jess from WeAreSocial for organising the day, as well as Indesit for creating the whole competition. And a final, massive thank you to Sam for recommending my name for it. As you can probably tell, I had a great time!