The Confirmation: It all started when I saw a post from Jomy that read, if anyone is interested to attend the 1st Arsenal Fan Screening in India. I was like what the f***, how cannot a Gunner be not interested for this magic? My memory is not kinda sharp, but I recall, I was the 1st one to comment on his post. I even made sure that I bugged him via Fb messages until it was confirmed, which as a matter of fact, I was. I was so excited just by thinking how awesome it will be to finally meet one of the Invincible – Super, Super Rob, Super, Super Rob, Super Super Robert Pires. Yes, I was going to meet the Robert Pires, the man who played a sizeable role in the 2003-04 invincible season and also many Gunners across India who were going to turn up for this mega event at the historic Mehboob Studios, Bandra. The very thought of going back to my most favorite city was icing on the cake.
The Journey (Part 1): The night before the epic journey, I was back from my office at 1:00am in the morning, roughly 5 hours from my morning bus and I did not had much sleep either for the entire week because of my work which I made sure did not mess it up with my passion. The night passed by very fast and I was all set to conquer one of my dreams so I made sure, I reached the stand on time for the bus which was scheduled to depart at 7:40 but heard that it was late by an hour. I planned to travel with a fellow Gunner, Pravin who is pursuing his MBA from Great Lakes. The journey was smooth where we discussed tactics, Fpl, Lineups and stuffs for hours with small to large nap in between but, we were running late by 2 hours which was alarming because we had our Arsenal bus to catch at 2:3o. We had a good lunch in between, because of the uncertainty hovering over our dinner. We kept the other bunch posted about our status in the whatsapp group which was exclusively created for this event and they were agitated, frustrated and may be even abusive because of our punctuality, but had no option other than wait, because we are gunners at the end of the day and brothers of different mothers. Finally me and pravin reached our strategic destination with an aim to intercept the Puma bus at Tumkur Road. We had more than 4o km to cover within 30 min, with Bangalore traffic to beat and boy, it seemed impossible. We booked an Uber and the driver denied the duty and we had to settle for an Ola, with whom I do not have pleasant experiences in the past and to make things worse, we got an Indica. We had no option other than taking the Nice Road, which is one of the best moving roads in Bangalore. We were traveling at 120 Kmph and suddenly the driver (Kumar) was driving like NiKi Lauda and the Indica seemed like a Ferrari 312. We were flying and everybody in the group were bewildered and just when we thought that we will be on time to intercept the Puma bus, we ran out of fuel. It showed 1.8 Km (4 min) for the destination and we both were like, why God why ? Can’t everything be perfect like Mikel Arteta’s hair ?? Pravin suggested that if we run, we can reach by 10 min to which I valiantly opposed. But then, Kumar tweaked something in the engine and off she goes, we started again to cover the remaining distance and we could see the Navy Blue painted sexy Arsenal bus and it looked beautiful as we moved closer and closer to it. The Ferrari ride costed us a good 1000 plus bucks, but that was definitely worth it. We jumped the divider to get into the bus and we were finally going to Mumbai, together. Dreams do come true, we just have to be patient and overcome the temporary hurdles.
The Journey (Part 2): 49, 49 undefeated. 49, 49 I say. 49,49 undefeated, playing football the Arsenal way. This is how we got welcomed by the group of gunners inside the bus. Pravin and me were very ecstatic that we finally made it and so were others. Phewww… I was connected to many guys in Fb, but all were new faces to me. There was Piyush, Ankur, Mohsin, Ronojay, Abhishek, Akshay with whom I first connected. All went smooth from the customary discussions, chants, rumors, work, passing snacks and with every hour we all got closer and closer. The night came thick and fast and we still had 700 plus km to cover. We had our dinner at a Dhaba, and some group photo shoots. Thanks to Reliance Jio and JBL, we were kept engaged, from grooving to classic hits dating back to Backstreet boys to the recent chart busters and from different fan chants to the BFC game, we all were engaged. Music and Sports connects people, rightfully said. Me and Rajiv ( Pursuing Engineering and dreams of making it into India’s cricket team one day) watched Friends a, a sitcom who most people love especially my sister. The night was getting colder and foggy and everyone were falling asleep excepting me, akshay and Mohsin. Akshay and myself had a chance to film everyone and the footage was so damn hilarious. (Akshay, I now think its time to post the magic that you filmed). I finally managed to get some sleep before the big day and when I woke up, we were in the beautiful Pune-Mumbai expressway covered with tunnels and mountains. The views were breathtaking. We finally had reached the destination at 11:00 am in the beautiful Bawa International hotel in Ville Parle, which was arranged by Puma, entirely Free of cost.
The Buildup: Finally, we were in Mumbai relishing our dream to meet Robert. The arrangement were such that, each room will accommodate 3 persons but our room had 5 ( Ankur and Abhishek being my primary roommate but we were also accompanied by Akshay and Ronojay to make it 5 in a twin sharing room). We had to make strategies and proper time management to use the only washroom, and we had close to 1 hour 15 min to get ready for the event. Finally we were done, then some mandatory photo sessions with our Arsenal Jerseys, some group pics and we guys were the very first ones to reach the lobby. Perfect, isn’t it ?? There we were accompanied by two gunners (Vivek and Arshad). We all quickly headed for our lunch which was fabulous once again as well as free of cost and we were all set to hit the road finally for the event. All the eyes were on the Puma bus while we headed to the Mehboob studios in the Western Express. Finally we were there at 3:45 pm and I have to say, the entry was nothing less of a magnificent celebrity entry. We chanted loudly all the famous chants that came to our mind and were also joined by hundreds of other gunners across the country. We were clicked then accompanied by the Arsenal’s Mascot Gunnersaurus. The feeling was pure love, ecstasy, excitement as well as emotional. We were joined by Piyush and Rajiv and we had our group pics by holding the ‘Arsenal Bangalore’ and Robert Pires banner beside the bus. Nothing beats the love of watching Arsenal alongside an Invincible and fellow gunners.
The Event: The event was grand, with gunners everywhere in Red and white and the chants were loud and clear, Arsenal made brilliant arrangements to be honest and everything was kind of a dream. We all got a chance to get clicked with digital image of Santi Cazorla and witness some free style football. In no time it was 4:30 pm which meant it was time for the team news and slowly and slowly we were all gearing for the kick-off. At 5, we were inside the studios and it was huge, with a giant screen on the extreme end that read, ‘Welcome to the Official Arsenal Fan Screening in Mumbai’. There were 1000s of gunners representing different official supporters club. There were videos of Arsenal Foundation, Goals scored and stuffs playing in the giant screen. And then, at 5:15pm just 15 min before the kick off came Robert, boy !!!! I cannot express the way I felt that time, but that was beautiful oozed with love and respect and we all started chanting on top of our voices, Super, Super Rob, Super, Super Rob, Super Super Robert Pires and several other chants and the best part was when, Robert chanted, who do you think is ‘SHIT‘, Tottenham we reverted, then again, who do you think are Tottenham, ‘SHIT‘ we responded. That was classy and hilarious. The game begun finally and there was some tense moments in between but we finally manage to take the lead close to Half time with a own goal coming from wimmer courtesy of Mesut Ozil’s cross and the studio went mad with people hugging, and baritones chants coming from all corners of the place and it was HT and we were leading with a goal to nil at the Emirates against our fiercest rivals. Robert came to the dash during the break and few lucky gunners got a chance to get his autograph and pictures and I had already achieved my aim of touching him ( I planned to hug him like I told everyone during our journey, but that was very difficult). The second half started slow and all of a sudden Kane leveled it for Spurs from the Penalty at 51’. The studio was Numb, Robert was dejected like all of us, and we started with our chants again, Oh to, Oh to be, Oh to be a, Gooner. Oh to, Oh to be, Oh to be a Gooner and again the atmosphere became lively again. The game ended 1:1 and that was definitely not a bad result to take. There was again some photo sessions and autograph sessions with Robert after the game and he was humble enough to sign almost everything and finally he made way. Our bunch had a fantastic dinner at Britos and some customary photo shoot and finally the time had come to depart. I was feeling broken to not be able to travel back with my brothers in the Puma bus since we (Ankur, Pravin and Harish) were catching the late flight back to Chennai but yeah it was one hell of an experience and a lifelong of memories to cherish. Made some great friends during the journey and I will make sure that, I will be there at Liber’s to witness the fan screening the next time when I am at Bangalore.
Signing off with this, Hope you all had a good read. Sorry, it almost 2k words, but I did not wanted to cut short. Thanks to Arsenal Bangalore Supporters club, Puma, Arsenal and everybody we made this happen. Till then, Keep gunning. Arsenal Till we Die.