Once we were eradicated from the competition after 10 or so minutes of football at the Emirates the other night, I have been struggling to decide who I would be rooting for in the Final. I thought about it for the remainder of the match against United as it was a good way of keeping my mind off the elimination. I wish I could just ignored the game entirely, but the Champions League final is too big of a match for me to ignore. Also I have plenty of United and Barca supporting mates that were very happy to remind me they were in the final and I was not.
To go for Barca or to go for Manure? That was the question. I hate both teams. Barcelona for always hounding our players every summer and United for being, well, United. I always like to see English teams win in European competitions because it brings me the utmost happiness to know Platini cannot stand to witness English success. But I could not fathom the thought of Manchester United being the first team to successfully retain the Champions League crown. After much internal debate, I had decided to somehow remain a neutral, though I knew that would not last. For me in any football match I watch, its natural to find favour in one side or another. It makes every game, even the most run of the mill, much more interesting. So I had planned to be a neutral. That was untill I found myself watching the Invincible season review last weekend.
I don't think I had ever truly forgiven Henry for the way he left. I didn't like it one bit. Acknowledging everything he did for this club, most fans accepted it and still loved him dearly, despite the fact he was wearing different colours. For me it took almost two years.
He said it was going to be his last contract and that he has never played in Spain and he never will. I believed him. He was my favourite player and I loved him dearly. That's why, when he left, it felt personal, as I'm sure it did to many of you. I'm not that old. I first started following the club after watching the 1998 FA Cup final with my Grandfather at the tender age of 7. Anelka left, and Wenger signed Thierry Henry in 1999. So for the overwhelmingly majority of my days supporting Arsenal, Henry was the face of the club. When he left I got my first real sense of how no player is bigger than the club. My mother, who to be fair is not into football at all, asked me would I now support Barcelona? Life goes on, and Arsenal was my life. It made me cringe to see pictures of him at the Nou Camp being introduced to the Barca faithful, and it hurt even more to see him kiss the Blaugrana badge after scoring a goal early in his first season.
It was pretty obvious why he left. He wanted a European medal and he didn't think Arsene's new Arsenal squad could get that for him. I thought if he would have only finished one of his glorious opportunities in Paris, he would already have a Champions League title to his name. If he wasn't winning it with Arsenal, I didn't want him to win it at all.
This though was very childish and selfish of me, and I have come to realize that. It has taken me much longer than the average Arsenal supporter to sit back and take emotions out of this. All that he did for this club is incredible, and no amount of words can accurately describe the mark he left on Arsenal FC. He gifted me a countless number of fantastic memories of fantastic goals. Acutally, it was two hundred and twenty six memories to be exact. That's why I could not help but smile yesterday when I saw Henry wearing the big eared trophy, he coveted so much, as a hat. I have figured out that he is still in my heart, and after reading his post match quotes, I also figured out he still has us in his heart as well.
"[The Final in Paris] will always remain the disappointment of my life"
"Arsenal was in my heart and in my blood, everyone knows that."
Legend. The King of Highbury. Congratulations Henry. You deserve it. Enjoy the moment while it lasts, because Arsene is gunning for your crown next year!
Also I cannot forget to mention another former Arsenal player representing Barcelona yesterday, Sylvinho. A congratulations to him is in order as well. As for Hleb, he can **** off for all I care.