Arsenal V Chelsea – A Friendly Game at Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Wednesday 01st August 2018
My first Arsenal game!
It was amazing! The stadium itself is (to me anyway) huge! Scott kept telling me that the Emirate stadium is a lot more impressive and holds more people. Last night there was 46,002 people in attendance, where Emirates Stadium’s capacity is approx 60, 000 (59,867 according to Google).
Getting there was fine – we traveled to Dublin with the Fermanagh Arsenal Supporter’s Club and left in good time to beat the crowds to Dublin – but coming home was another matter entirely. When leaving the stadium, you are directed to an exit according to the block/area you were sitting in to watch the match. So the way we were being directed was the opposite way we needed to go to get back to the coach pick-up point. We were herded to go to the right and then, a good bit down the way, there was a designated lane for people who needed to go left but it meant walking all the way back up the road we just walked. The crowds at this stage were getting packed, the designated lane to go left was a two person lane at most and it was pretty dark with little enough street lights.
We choose not to go down this narrow left lane to bring us back around, mainly because it was moving at a snails pace and the coach pick up time was getting very near. We walked down the road a bit further until one of us could get a signal to check where we needed to go on Google Maps (I’m so so glad I had enough battery left on my phone to do this). Unfortunately, it was back the way we came but instead of using the extremely slow moving narrow lane designated for our route, we walked the long way around the stadium at a more quickly pace. Even though this route was crowded in certain parts as well (with other attendees being exited at this side of the stadium) we believe we still managed to make it back before a lot of people we would have been walking behind in the designated lane. We did make it back in time for the coach home and we weren’t even the last ones on the coach either!
The match itself was phenomenal. Chelsea scored early on in the first half, it was pretty nail-biting until Arsenal finally scored the equalizer then (in the 3 mins extra time). Penalties then was a whole new round of nerve-wrecking moments. But fortunately, Arsenal prevailed and won! The crowds went pretty mad at that point. It was really cool actually.
The commentary and chants from all the other supporters around us were fantastic. We were sitting in an area that had mostly Arsenal supporters which worked out pretty well because everyone around us were cheering and booing at the right times and there was no aggressive or antagonising behaviour; however in saying that I didn’t once see any kind of bickering or violence throughout my whole time there. You would
sort of expect to see someone taking the whole rivalry thing too far and cause a ruckus of some kind but no, I didn’t see anyone misbehaving. This was a major plus for me as it was my first ever football game of this size and it was beginning to feel a wee bit daunting and claustrophobic with such a big crowd of people leaving at the one time.
From what I saw, it did have very tight security and there were stewards and police officers (Garda) on every corner and junction; this made me feel quite safe. However, when reading the official websites for this event and seeing signs on the walk up to the stadium – it said “No bags (with the exception of small handbags, no bigger than A4) will be allowed into the stadium. Handbags will be subject to search), no rucksacks, small cameras are permitted for rugby and football matches but we do not permit lenses bigger than 70mm to be used”. When reading this I didn’t want to take any chance and just brought an over the shoulder bag – this bag wasn’t checked when going in, Scott and other men were patted down at security but I wasn’t asked to be by the female staff, there were a group of young lads a few rows in front of us and one of them had a rucksack with a semi professional camera with a lens that was definitely bigger than 70mm. Yes it would have been horrible for anybody being turned away at the gate for bringing these prohibited items with them; but rules are there for a reason and why is it O.K for some people to abide and others to completely disregard…?
I saw quite a few supporters who brought young kids along too; so I’m really glad there was this level of security, outside when leaving the grounds anyway. It can be scary enough for a short twenty-something woman – never mind an even younger and shorter child.
I’d definitely love to go back and see another Arsenal game – whether it would be at Aviva Stadium again or somewhere else, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the camaraderie among the supporters.
At the very end of the game, after penalties and everything, the arsenal team brought out a banner expressing their thanks our support; I thought this was a really nice touch and I know meant a lot to every Arsenal supporter.