I walked through the tunnel at the Emirates into the arena. Getting to the touchline, I stopped to take it all in – the view Arsene Wenger sees whenever he emerges from the tunnel for every home again. An edifice that was a dream and is now a reality.
When the news of Wenger’s resignation filtered down to me, I was surprised and had mixed feelings. I didn’t believe it. I wasn’t expecting it so soon. I sank on my chair just as I had sank on Wenger’s seat at the Emirates after that wonderful tour. It was official and was on the Arsenal site.
In 1996, Nigeria’s football Gold in the Olympics was the major discussion around town with very little about “Arsene Who?”. 22 years on, Wenger have decided to call it quits. While the recent years have been a mixture of clay and iron, you can’t deny the revolution Wenger brought to football. Some of us funnily thought Arsenal was named after him but 22 long years is no mean feat.
Despite the disappointments of not winning the Champions League, 14 years without the Premier League, and the small matter of the League Cup, Wenger’s input to the cultural shift cannot be over emphasized – the style, the diet, the professionalism etc.
I see Wenger as an epitome of Love and Loyalty, sacrificing self to achieve the desires and goals of a larger community. He was there at Highbury, engineered the transfer to the Emirates and dominance thereof. It won’t be out of place to name the Emirates after him.
Possession with progression, Wengerball is a joy to watch. I am fortunate to have watched a live game at the Emirates under Wenger. Under Wenger, the world had the opportunity of seeing the best of Thierry Henry, Denis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Ashley Cole and the members of the invincibles who went through a season without a league defeat.
His believe in young players was a reason I loved watching the League Cup. Fabregas, Clichy, Bendtner, Nasri, Wilshere, Ramsey, Iwobi, Szczesny and many more went through that system. I had the joy of watching my best footballer – Tomas Rosicky – under Wenger. The World Best case of Nicklas Bendtner is not excluded.
Nigerians won’t forget he was Kanu’s coach and brought Iwobi to limelight. I wonder what happened to that failed Arsenal Tour to Nigeria.
I won’t forget the 7-5 League Cup comeback win at Reading, the 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions League, the FA Cup wins, the league win against Mourinho, the community shield victories.
Most importantly, I loved Wenger – the man. His philosophy is one to emulate. How he takes the criticism with grace and humour. How he chooses his words and he gives hope to many. He is one of three men I value so much. Tomas Rosicky and Roger Federer are the other.
Today, I would sit back and watch as the long goodbye starts. Hopefully, the team is inspired to win the Europa League for him – not an easy task. The headache to replace him is on. We watch and hope for a good successor.
Thank you Wenger.