For last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final tie between Reading and Arsenal, I was fortunate enough to get behind the scenes access for the day. Ranging from seeing the players arriving to being pitch side before kick-off, I got to experience a day football fans can only dream of.
This was thanks to the Football Association and Wembley Stadium, giving me memories I’ll remember for a lifetime. The photos of my day can be viewed here. This is my unique, unforgettable and amazing #FACupAdventure.
It started with the familiar surroundings for any journalist. After picking up my accreditation for the day, I made my way to the press lounge for the afternoon. It was here where things started to sink in properly, here I was at the home of English football, ready to watch my team in the FA Cup semi-final.
The excitement went up a notch when we headed pitch side and to watch the players arriving. Before the coaches arrived, I bumped into Arsenal hero and invincibles legend Martin Keown- before making my way to see the current Arsenal icons.
When the players exited the coach I was just a few feet away from my heroes; Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Francis Coquelin, Olivier Giroud- the entire squad. After murmuring a few good luck messages towards Per Mertesacker, Aaron Ramsey and Arsene Wenger, I headed back to pitch-side.
With the terraces filling up fast, the goosebumps on my arm started to raise. From each side of the stadium I can hear the fans, growing louder as we approached further to the kick-off time. This is when it occurred to me that this is the closest I will ever get to playing in front of a packed Wembley, cheering me on.
I may not have been the hero of the day, scoring the winning goal and showing flair- my restricted footballing skills wouldn’t allow that- but I was the closest any fan could ever be. It’s days like this when working late in the office everyday really pay off.
My time pitch side had to come to an end and I headed to my seat in the press box, where little to my knowledge I was set for a roller-coaster 120 minutes. Alexis Sanchez scored right in front of me, which is fortunately where all the goals were scored that day, and I had one of the best seats in the house.
From start to finish I was a fan, as is always the case when Arsenal were involved, but this was like nothing I’d experienced before, even in my work life as a journalist. A memorable day for any football fan who’s team gets to the FA Cup final, for consecutive years might I add, this was a different scenario entirely.
Even if I’m fortunate enough to experience something similar again, nothing will be as good as this first experience. The noise, the atmosphere, the venue. It was a perfect, sunny and idilic game for a football match.
A day I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, I have to say thank you to the FA once again. That’s my #FACupAdventure- what’s yours? Make sure to share on Twitter leading up to the showcase final on May 30th!