THE DAY before the Arsenal v 1. FC Köln Europa League match, I was offered two tickets for the game by a Gunners’ season ticket holder. I also looked on Viagogo, there were a few tickets for sale, almost certainly from Arsenal fans who didn’t fancy Thursday night football. In London, there had been a steady stream of German fans arriving for 48 hours. In Soho on Thursday lunchtime, the place was awash with chanting Köln supporters. My son works in Soho and told me he could hear German songs being sung streets away. “But surely, they can’t have tickets?”, was my response. “The game is officially sold-out”.
Indeed that was the case, so if I was aware of that, why were the security services and Arsenal so badly caught out? “Unprecedented violence,” said the Independent. “Unprecedented?” – who is writing this? Are memories so short? Robert Peston, Arsenal fan and now ITV journalist, who also lives in the neighbourhood, called Koln fans disgraceful and reported that Nazi salutes were being thrown inside the Emirates. Ironically, according to social media, an Arsenal fan was evicted for doing just that, aiming his “salute” at the Köln fans. Interestingly, 1. FC Köln are renowned for being anti-racist and also for standing against the Alternative für Deutschland movement. Nevertheless, if it was true (and the photo on twitter claiming to be a Nazi saluting fan is debatable), then there’s no defending the action. It does seem that there was a “monumental intelligence failure” around this fixture, which given the fact that European games are not a novelty at the Emirates, is all the more curious. In typical German fashion, Köln issued an apologetic statement, but also pointed out that many of their fans had picked up their tickets through the “second market” that was fuelled by Arsenal’s own fans. The next meeting will be interesting- and don’t forget the German election is looming!
The “German invasion” of London and the sacking of Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer provided good sport for anti-Europe campaigners. The confusion at the Emirates was matched by the “muddled thinking” (Steve Parish comment) at Selhurst Park. De Boer became one of the season’s first scapegoats, losing his job (almost Clough-style) after just 77 days in charge. Palace have had a dire start to the season, yet they are trying to change from an Allardyce team to a more cosmopolitan style – hence they hired a Dutch coach. At the end of August, he was already “clinging” to his job, according to the Guardian, which does make you wonder how committed they were from the start. “I didn’t think it was going to work,” said the dapper Steve Parish. Even GQ weighed in with Jermaine Jenas trotting out that post-sacking cliché, “I think the players need to take a long hard look at themselves.” At the same time, Jenas repairs the situation by saying, “players are best placed to assess the mood in the dressing room”. And after saying the decision made by Parish was “crazy”, he goes to on express his admiration for the Palace chief. Over to you, Roy Hodgson!
Sources: Goal.com; Croydon Advertiser; Guardian, BBC, Independent