We spoke to lifelong Arsenal fan and season ticker holder Hugo von Halle to find out what it was like finally, finally being allowed to go home… to The Emirates.
How did you manage to get a ticket?
I was queueing for ages online and when I finally managed to get through, the website was fairly temperamental but I got there in the end.
How did you get to the game?
It was strange getting to the game – there were no riot police, crowds, helicopter, nothing. We got a cab to the game from the pub. I’ve never been able to do that once in my life at an Arsenal game. It was a very surreal experience.
What were your first impressions inside the stadium?
It was the only time I’ve been to Arsenal in years, if not decades, where every seat was taken. Well, every seat that was sold was taken. We were all spread out evenly and you could see the pattern across the stadium.
What was the food and drink situation?
In the standard seating there was limited food – pie and soft drinks – no alcohol. You’d have to eat in your seat. However, I was in Club level, which was a supremely weird experience, and not just because the fans were singing for the first time. You had to check in at reception and then you were escorted to your designated table, where you could order drinks without a substantial meal. Arsenal had obviously found a loophole there, being creative for the first time this season probably. It was a bit like being in an airport lounge.
How was the famous Arsenal atmosphere?
I genuinely think the atmosphere was almost better than before Covid. I can’t speak for other grounds or sets of fans, but this was a dead tie against Rapid Vienna and yet all the fans that were there were in full song. The 2,000 that were there genuinely cared. Having said that, I’ve heard it was reasonably loud on TV so I reckon they were clever with the stadium speakers!
Was there a connection between the crowd and the players?
Yes, I really think so. They were so aware of us and gave us a big clap before and after the game. I don’t know if it was because Rapid Vienna were so bad, or whether the crowd set the players free, but the performance was a step up from anything we’ve seen all season.
It felt like we were all a part of something quite big and important. The social distancing was pretty straightforward, but you can’t social distance noise.
Did anything in particular stand out during the game?
There were no away fans, so when Vienna scored just after half-time, we were just finishing up out drinks. When we came back in, I had no idea that we were no longer 3-0 up for about 15 minutes. My brother pointed the scoreboard to me and I had to take two.
Do you think there were the right amount of fans inside?
They could definitely have done the same the whole way round the stadium. The fact that a 4,000-seater stadium could have the same amount of fans as The Emirates doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.
Will you be going back soon?
Tickets were £15 downstairs and £40 upstairs, so it definitely wasn’t a money maker for the Club. After this match, they are going to start doing ballots. If you happen to be successful and go to a game, you won’t be able to get to another one until everybody else on the waiting list has been to a game. So while this was a nice moment to be back at the stadium and see Arsenal, it was still laced with a tiny bit of sadness. Things won’t be back to normal for a while yet in football.