- Life and Style
- 64GBP London to Paris by train - ticket 22 May
- London to Paris tickets for June 2 at 8:19AM
- Paris a Londres
- Billet Paris/LDN 31 Mai-19:13
Les joueurs français d'Arsenal vus par 2 garçonsThe half term holiday has finally arrived, bringing the opportunity they have craved for so long. Their mothers groan at the prospect of driving to some out-of-the-way corner of north London, but dare not refuse. The day arrives. They're on their way.
At first sight, the two 12-year-old boys don't appear to have much in common. One is English, the other is French: one eats to fill his stomach, the other eats for pleasure; one dresses to keep warm, the other dresses to impress et cetera. But their families live in adjoining houses, and they seem to get along.
What the boys do share is a passion for supporting Arsenal. The English boy follows the Reds because his father supports them, and his grandfather supported them. The French boy adores 'Les Rouges' because, ever since his father relocated the family from Paris, the club has seemed a sporting symbol of France in London, managed by Arsene Wenger, inspired by French heroes like Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and others.
So, notwithstanding their differences, the boys find unity in the Arsenal, and this trip reflects their enthusiasm.
The plan is simple.
Their heroes train almost every morning of the week at the club's perfectly appointed training centre not far from junction 22 of the M25, London's orbital motorway. According to something the boys read in a magazine, the players train till soon after 12, then shower and have something to eat. It is normal for them to leave the training centre between half past one and two.
Access to the AFC training complex is restricted to club staff, personal guests of the players and journalists with arrangements to conduct interviews. Supporters are kept out.
So, they gather, just outside the unmarked black gates, either side of this quiet road in this non-descript area. They stand in their red Arsenal shirts with hope in their red hearts, clutching autograph books and anything else that a player could sign. And, from about quarter past one on a week day, these fans move towards the shining, top-of-the-range cars that emerge from the gates and then must pause at the junction before accelerating away into the grim anonymity of the capital city.
That pause is everything, the opportunity.
As a highly prized, £40,000-a-week foot eases softly onto the brake, the crazed supporter hurls himself towards the tinted window and thrusts his paraphernalia towards the hero. Sometimes, cold eyes stare straight ahead, checking the road is clear and moving away without a backward glance. The transient football superstar wants their money, not them.
Almost always, however, the car stops and the window whirrs down, not all the way but just far enough for one or two items to be passed inside. A swish of a pen delivers a signature, and the deal is done. With apologies to the others, the star has done his bit, shown he loves them like they love him, and he drives away.
Today, on this overcast February day, there are perhaps 15 Arsenal fans milling around the otherwise deserted junction, hoping that they will be the lucky one who gets to pass his cherished items inside, and walks away with a millionaire's scrawl.
The boys arrive in good time, leave their bemused mothers to sit in the car a safe distance away, and join the throng.
"It's almost time," the English boy says.
"Oui, oui, je sais," his friend replies...
It all happened so quickly.
The green Mercedes four-by-four purred to the junction, and a fashionably attired, athletic arm reached out of the vehicle's window and accepted the English boy's autograph book.
"That's Terry," he declared, thrilled as he brandished the page now bearing the prize signature. "Thanks, Tel!"
Standing behind him, the French boy seethed. "It's not Terry, It's Thi-erry. You can't even get his name right."
"No, it's Terry. He's English now. And, by the way, it's Pat, not Pat-rick; and it's Bob Pires, not Rob-ert."
"Ah, bon et alors, which country do they play for?"
"They are forced to play for France. They don't enjoy it. That's why they were bad at the World Cup. They play well for us because they choose to play for Arsenal. They love the club."
"No, they love the money, not the club."
Other gleaming vehicles passed by, until by two o'clock, every player had left the centre. The French boy and the English boy went home satisfied, the best of enemies, and the best of friends.
- Thierry Henry
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