I’ve followed football ever since I was little. Sometimes I hate it, most of the time I can’t stop banging on about it. The most important part is this: as a fan, you’re just never indifferent. Football and sport more broadly has this extraordinary way of bringing people together.
That’s something I briefly touched on recently after attending the England v France game at Wembley, which was an incredible thing to be part of. I’ve compiled a list of my top 12 most memorable moments since I’ve started watching football.
12) Monaco 2004
Monaco’s glorious Champions League run is what really got me into club football. The Monaco story had everything: a core of national players, a star or two with a point to prove and wins over several of Europe’s then giants (Deportivo, Madrid’s Galacticos, Chelsea) along the way.
The abrupt conclusion and ultimate 3-0 defeat to Mourinho’s Porto made the whole saga all the more memorable and dramatic.
11) Arsenal’s CL final
First taste of painful defeat as an Arsenal fan. The run up to the final had been fantastic, with Fabregas establishing himself as a key player and Henry’s winner at the Bernabeu. But Barcelona was just better on the night, snatching victory in the final minutes. Ouch.
10) Messi and Ronaldo
Football’s greatest ever rivalry in my opinion, they will go down in the history of sport as the two best players of all time. A never ending debate, and a major opposition of image, style, game and personality. One day, we’ll look back at how privileged we were to see them both.
9) PSG takeover
After years of struggle, the rescuing hand of investors finally came for PSG, and how happy I was about it! Seeing my club finally win the title was incredible. The signings of Ibra and Thiago Silva within a few days of each other were incredible highlights.
Indeed it seemed my FIFA career had come to life – no, it had been surpassed by reality. And never mind the idiots who say we ‘lost our identity’. If our identify had been losing, I was more than happy to see the back of it!
8) Pedro Pauleta
PSG’s captain/striker/hero, he was the club’s proudest asset throughout tough years. Sort of our Alan Shearer, if you like? Turned down major moves away including Lyon to stay at the club, and somehow managed to score over 100 goals in 5 seasons in Paris despite being surrounded by utterly useless team mates.
Scored some unforgettable goals against Marseille in his time, helped us stay up and win a few cups too. A true football legend.
7) Henry leaving Arsenal
One of, if not my favourite player of all time. I’ll never forget seeing him score the first time I went to see an Arsenal game. Left Arsenal as I moved to London – which nearly made me change my mind about the whole damn thing! Got so upset when he went. Legend.
6) Barcelona’s Ronaldinho
Although he was only on top of the world for a couple of seasons – mainly because he couldn’t be arsed to run – he’s the most exciting player I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. It often took several replays to even comprehend what he did with the ball. Truly magical, you had to see it to believe it.
5) PSG’s great escape
It’s 2008, and PSG’s has yet another shit season. This time though, we’re not talking disappointing lower mid-table. This time, the relegation struggle is real, and it comes down to the very last game.
At Sochaux, PSG must win to stay up. It all comes down to a late scrappy winner from the long forgotten Amara Diane to see PSG safe. I ask: is the Ivorian who kept Paris up, allowing them to find investor and succeed, the capital’s most important ever player?
4) The Invincibles
No one’s done it, no one ever will. Henry, Bergkamp, Viera, Pires. The dream, the best. The team.
3) Arsenal’s dry years
From top to flop. Arguably still ongoing. At its peak though, saw us sell most of our best players to direct competitors, never compete for league titles nor win any cups. The drought lasted 9 years all in all. It felt longer.
All the while, my Manchester United supporting friends got to see Ronaldo and his mates lift trophy after trophy. Supporting Arsenal was the hardest thing about going to school in the UK, including not speaking the language.
2) Zidane’s return and demise
2006 World Cup final. Zidane’s final career game, after a glorious campaign which saw him almost single-handedly knock out Spain, Brazil and Portugal. He should’ve been on top of the world that day.
Instead? Well we all know what happened instead. Heartbreaking, closest I’ve come to football tears.
1) France 98
It had to be. The day every French person became a football fan. I was 6 years old, and I still remember watching it at my uncle’s flat. And going out on the street afterwards to celebrate. 17 years on, I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
What are your top football moments?