Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup third round, Saturday 4 January 2014
Football weaves an odd magic over those who go to watch it. Every week between August and May there’s a set time of a set day when tension ratchets up, and life is not normal. ‘Entertainment as pain’ Nick Hornby called it. I love it, despite better judgement and competing priorities in life.
At this match one incident in particular encapsulate the unique experience of supporting your team and desperately wanting them to win, and how it feels wanting something to happen that is completely beyond your control. And then it does. And it is great.
If you want, you can watch the video (for instance here) to get an idea of what happens. Tomáš Rosický, Arsenal’s Czech attacking midfielder scores Arsenal’s second goal. Here he is, bustling Danny Rose off the ball and charging goalwards.
In an instant, tens of thousands of people stand as one and roar him on in what has become a sprint. Despite the close attentions of Spurs defenders who are younger and faster Rosický wins the sprint.
Next, the duel. Lloris, the Spurs keeper, narrows the angle. A vast, silent intake of breath. Rosický flicks the ball, twisting his body as he does it. This unorthodox shot rises over the keeper and nestles in the corner of the goal.
And then: noise. An amazing noise.
English football crowds make a noise unlike the continental ‘GOOOOOOOLLLLL!’ It is more like a roar of relief, disbelief and a primal scream that reaches out into the night sky and to the millions watching on TV.
From my vantage point in the crowd it looks like Tomáš may have left it late, which he had, but that he would not ever miss. Just as well, as I used those six seconds in which he is charging towards goal to temporarily discover faith in every deity that comes to mind, and invoke their kindness. Then the ball goes in and I add my voice to roar, muffled split-seconds after that by the supporters around me, old friends and family, who bundle on top of each other.
The scorer with adrenalin coursing through his veins charges off, arms punching the air in celebration.
Nice one Tom. That was a very fine six seconds to be alive.