Football Football

UK Chronicle: A day in the capital, London

The view of the Emirates Stadium in London from the coaches’ touchline. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 3 – London is a beautiful city, very beautiful, such that on Friday when I, in the company of Standard newspaper reporter Rodgers Eshitemi and K24 sports anchor Shawn Osimbo got lost changing buses, we didn’t mind taking long walks to find where we were going.

First of all, it wasn’t easy moving around at the beginning.

The biggest agenda on the day, having arrived early for the SportPesa Trophy game between Kenyan champs Gor Mahia and English Premier League side Everton, was a stadium tour.

No guesses as to where our pick for the tour was.. of course, The Emirates… Life-long fans, life-long dreams!

SportPesa are also Arsenal’s official Africa betting partners.

We thought we could quickly jump on an Uber from our hotel and make our way to the stadium located on Hornsey Road in North London, but just as the first timers we were, we didn’t know their Ubers don’t take cash.. card only, please.

Outside the Emirates Stadium is a roll of group photos of every squad that played for Arsenal in the Highbury era that ended in 2006. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Our next alternative was to get a bus.. but again… no cash!

We had to get a travelling card, what in London is referred to as an Oyster card, to enable us hop onto buses that charge £1.50 (Sh197)a trip. The cards are pre-loaded with any preferred package from as low as (Sh657) £5 to enable you to move around.

Just tap it on a reader in the bus and boom! Your £1.50 is gone and you are good to take your journey.

We did just that and alas! We were changing buses like it was a new hobby. We took a bus that would take us close to our destination at the Emirates, but yes, we got lost and didn’t alight at the stop we should have.

Hopped onto another, same cycle, but this time round, we decided to ask for directions and walk.

Arsenal’s 2018/2019 squad photo is beautifully placed on the club’s walls

At about 10:30am, we got to the Emirates Stadium (emotions rising high of course) and there our tour started.

From the Thierry Henry Statue at the entrance to the Arsenal shop, this was a classic example of a club that has realized its huge fan base and most importantly decided to commercialize on it. This is something that our clubs, especially Gor Mahia now that they are in town should borrow a leaf from.

The stadium tour cost £23 (Sh3,025) and it was worth every penny.

From the Arsenal Museum to the changing rooms and the immaculate pitch, it was a brilliant morning.

The guides, very friendly and helpful took us through every bit of The Emirates, from where the top bosses sit, it’s called the Diamond Club. The likes of Arsenal Chairman Chips Keswick, his Board of Directors and the club’s top bosses enjoy the game from a good vintage point of view at the Diamond Club.

The Diamond Club at the Emirates Stadium where the high and mighty sit to enjoy the great Arsenal play

Even the Royal Family, when they come to the Emirates to watch the great Arsenal play, have their places at the Diamond Club.

From expensive drinks to food and extremely comfortable leathered seats, you get to enjoy an Arsenal match like you never have. And, it is not only the big, mighty and known that get to sit at the Diamond Club. Well, everyone can. But, do you have £30,000 (Sh3.9mn) a year?

Well, that is what will cost you to be a member of this exclusive club.

Below them is the Director’s Box which also has a good vintage view, with almost same facilities, but not as posh and plum. Here as well, is where the other cadre of club bosses get to watch their team play from.

Lest you forget! The 49-games unbeaten season of 2003/2004 is viewed as the greatest in Arsenal history. The trophy they won last year is beautifully displayed at the stadium

The changing room was bliss. We couldn’t take long at the away section because they were preparing it for the arrival of on-form Liverpool, who take on the Gunners on Saturday evening at 5:30pm (8:30pm Kenyan time).

The home changing room was another thing of beauty.

Apart from the general room where the players sit before, at half time and after the match, there is a separate massage room, a mini-swimming pool and state of the art bathrooms.

Head coach Unai Emery also has his own space, with a somehow office setting complete with comfortable leather seats, a set of TV and a changing room as well.

View from the Director’s Box at the Emirates Stadium in London

We also got the opportunity to walk down to the pitch as well, the beautiful manicured lawns being prepared whole day for Liverpool’s visit.

From all the tour, there a huge lesson for Kenyan clubs especially the two biggest in the country, Gor and AFC.

The club gets revenue from selling merchandise, offering stadium tours, and not only depending on sponsors and match-day ticket revenues. Why can’t our clubs build their brands to this level, at least, even half of it?

If Gor, AFC and then all other Kenyan clubs could get their own stadia, no matter how small, it could be a starting point to this journey. Merchandising is another idle goldmine that these two big clubs in Kenya are sitting on.

Well, that is it from our day one in the United Kingdom.

I tried to have a press conference on my own, at the exact position Unai Emery gives his, but it was an empty auditorium

The day ended with us travelling with the Gor Mahia team from the Euston Train Station to Liverpool, which is going to be our home for the next four days.

-Timothy Olobulu is reporting from United Kingdom-