We live in Highbury and our local football club is therefore Arsenal. But being from Cologne our heart beats for FC Cologne – or “Effzeh” as the club is called in Cologne. Having a sympathy (also at a different level) for both clubs, the Europe League draw was a sensation to us.
We have never dreamt of being able to attend the match. Unintentionally, I approched my colleague, an Arsenal member, to talk about that brilliant draw. Cologne is well know among the Arsenal fans since Poldi has played for Arsenal. As many other Arsenal fans, he was not keen on watching the Europe league and proactively offered to get 2 tickets for me, although in the home end. But wow! What a sensation! I should be able to watch a game that is nothing to Arsenal but means everything to Cologne!
Finally, the day has come. 14 September 2017. 25 years after the Effzeh has last attended an international club competition. 20,000 Cologne fans were travelling to London to watch the match in the stadium or in pubs. In advance of the games there have been discussions between the clubs on the number of tickets for the away fans. Cologne was only granted the minimum of 5% which are 2,900 seats. However, the club could easly have accommodated twice as many. Thus, a lot of fans tried to get tickets elsewhere. And they did this very succesfully as Arsene Wenger, Arsenal coach, acknowledged. An estimated number of 7,000 Cologne fans ended up being in the stadium.
As we were two of these 7,000 supporters, we happily made us on our way to the Emirates stadium on time. There have been Cologne supporters everywhere. And although we are from Cologne, I have not expected to meet anyone there. But how things go, I met a friend from my tax advisor course in the middle of Gillespie Road. Alex was well equiped trying to hide his true support for Cologne by wearing an Arsenal shirt. It later turned out that this was completely unnecessary. How should they ever have stopped the approximate 4,000 additional fans from getting into the home end?
After we met Alex, we moved on looking for our entrance. A crowd was already waiting with the doors not being opened. After a while, we were already wondering why the gates stay shut. As it turned out some 50 idiots (admittedly from the Cologne supporters) tried to get where there weren’t supposed to be. Fortunately, the game was only postponed by an hour and not cancelled that day.
After we got in eventually, we were surrounded by Arsenal supporters, some of them season ticket holders. Although we didn’t dress up with Cologne scarfs, we have been identified as Germans. Luckily, we have been categorised as nice Germans and had a little chat with the lady behind us but no harm whatsoever.
The match was great. Cologne was leading for quite a while. Unfortunately, Arsenal is a bit more experienced in international matches and turned the game around. But this couldn’t stop us from celebrating. Even after the last Arsenal fan has left the stadium, Cologne was having a party.
I am very proud of how Cologne has supported the Effzeh. I am also proud of the Cologne celebrations not matter of the result of the match. And I am glad to have been there!