Tuesday 29 October 2013

Meet the Gooner Family [Par, Vancouver, Canada]

Meet Par and Daisy, my hosts for the Vancouver segment of the Gooner On The Road mission. I was particularly looking forward to meeting these people because I had previously met them at the Blind Pig in New York back in May - it was around the time when I had initially conceived the idea of Gooner On The Road and they were really supportive. Essentially they were the first Gooners to offer me somewhere to stay. All I had to do was get over to the West coast of Canada!

What makes this particular encounter with the Gooner Family more special is that they are expecting a baby Gooner, 'Henry', in December, and had asked me to pick up a baby onesie kit from the Armoury. Photos to follow!

Selfie attempt no.47. The Gooner 'bump' not visible
Par Esegbona

Q. Why Arsenal?
The history, I loved going to Highbury despite the days of standing up in the pissing rain. I Especially enjoyed going with my mates who were all Gooners. Even then it didn't matter if we won or lost it was just a great day out.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
In my mid-teens, more than three decades ago (showing my age). I was a late convert to football. I guess I didn't like it because my brothers started playing football before I did. My older brother Clement played for Brentford Colts but they were both Arsenal fans. In the beginning I went to watch Arsenal because my mates were fans, I only went because it was the best opportunity to hang out with my mates but all I remember is the weather being consistently terrible and not enjoying standing up getting wet, cold and pushed around. One day we went up to Watford to watch Arsenal away and the sun was actually out, and we won. That was the turning point for me.

Q. Favourite Player?
Thierry Henry is my favourite player on the pitch; even when he left the club he did it with dignity and he has the same middle name as me and my unborn son (Henry). But, in terms of staff, my favourite personnel is Arsene Wenger because his mentorship and talent-spotting ability is second-to-none and he sets a very good example with his financial acumen . He's also stubborn and he's 'le professuer' for the right reasons.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Santi Cazorla. I think he came into the Premiership last year and made an immediate name for himself. He makes Wenger laughs when he talks about him, which is really funny. Cazorla makes me smile when he plays well.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
1989. I was in a pub in Skegness surrounded by Leeds fans that didn't really want to have it on the TV screen. There were no Arsenal fans in Skegness whatsoever, I was the only one there. When Thomas scored that winner I was ecstatic but of course I was the only Gunner there, surrounded by all those Leeds fans. I didn't care...

Q.Where do you watch Arsenal in Vancouver?
In the comfort of my cinema room (in my decrepit attic) when I'm not at the Phat Bar. The only reason why I don't go to the pub to watch it is because I always feel like I've spent loads of cash and come away with a defeat – I think I jinx the team when I don't watch the game at home!

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
I've actually never been to the Emirates so it has to be Highbury for me. Being in the Clock End, the pitch was so small, being close to the players. I remember us standing at Highbury as well, and that was fantastic. Of course you can't do that in England any more.

Q. League Prediction?
The heart says 1st, the head says 2nd. But I do feel like we'll get some silverware this season.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
I think this is Ramsey's year. He's shown character coming back from injury, he's showing loads of confidence and has grown as a player after being played out of position last season.

So, a quick stop in Canada before heading back across the border to Seattle, to watch us take on Chelsea's Oil Boys in the Capital One Cup


Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal [Par's house, Vancouver, Canada]

I'm back in Canada eh! Another quite brilliant city in North America, Vancouver is a haven for outdoor lovers. It's one of the only places in the world where you can ski, sail, bike and run all within the city limits, and all on the same day. Of course I spent the majority of my time eating and drinking and not partaking in any of those activities. But, if I had more time, I certainly would.

Vancouver skyline viewed from Stanley Park
The photo opportunities in Vancouver and the surrounding area are unbelievable, with the mountains providing an un-rivalled backdrop to the glass and concrete mecca of the downtown skyline. It's a city like no other. It's also extremely expensive, with the exception of Sushi, believe it or not, where you can get some of the best the world has to offer for very little outlay. It was a welcomed alternative to the usual deep-fried gastronomic delights I have subjected myself to in the United States over the past few months.

The Vancouver Gunners (known locally as VancouverArse) follow the team passionately and usually watch matches at Phat Bar, located in one of the city's many upscale districts, Yale Town (sounds expensive doesn't it?).

However, I was thrown into the deep-end in terms of adjusting to life as a Gunner on the West-Coast. The first match on this side of the continent was of course Crystal Palace, a 12:45pm kickoff. When you consider that Vancouver is 8 hours behind, well...you can do the math; it's a 4:45am start, understandably too early for Phat Bar to open. And as the challenge is 'to watch every Arsenal game with another Gooner' I had no choice but to get up at stupid O'clock with my host, Par, and watch the game from home. And I might also add, once we had watched us beat Palace 2-0, we immediately headed over to the bar to watch it again, 'as live', both of us trying our damnedest to act like we didn't know what the outcome of the game was. We deserve Oscars.

So, the GOTR unbeaten run continues. Next stop is Seattle, back in the United States. Keep an eye out for the 'Meet The Gooner Family' feature on my Vancouver hosts.