For years I’ve sat across the television, dreaming of the day when I would be amongst the thousands shouting my lungs out in support of my beloved Spurs. A day when I could soak in the atmosphere on match day at White Hart Lane and feel the electricity as the ball moves across the lush green surface. Unify my voice with fellow fans as we inspire those on the pitch to push on and strive for greatness.
A few years ago, sitting half way across the world, this was merely a far-fetched fantasy, but that's the funny thing with life – if you keep believing, eventually things just fall perfectly into place.
on 1st December 2013, that dream came true. I was off to White Hart Lane to see the mighty Spurs in action!!
I jump out of bed and quickly make my way to the other side of the room where my phone is being charged to see the time. It’s 3am. 25 minutes since I last ran across my room to check the time. I just can’t sleep. This anticipation is growing by the second – morning can’t come fast enough.
My alarm rings and finally its 7am and match day is here! I quickly have a shower and wear all the spurs gear I have. From my new kit to a scarf I got 5 years ago – everything. After breakfast we quickly reassemble near the front door to get in the cab.
Our cabby funnily enough turns out to be the nicest arsenal fan I’ve ever met. Maybe he said it for an extra quid tip or maybe he actually meant it, either way saying that he strongly believed Spurs would win today made my smile a bit wider. As we rush past the morning London traffic we get the first of many great surprises that day. The club just asked to meet us. They want to take a picture of IndiaSpurs at the ground and have an interview. This is BIG. All the hard work we’ve put in over the years to set up this great community of fans in India is finally getting the recognition it deserves. We tell our cabby to put the pedal to the metal because we can’t be late now.
It is quarter past 10 and I get my first glimpse of our spiritual home. There in the distance is a sight I’ve waited years to see. Towering out of the buildings surrounding it is the great structure, White Hart Lane. As we get closer and closer to the ground the crowd walking on the streets gets bigger. Everywhere you look there is Spurs, Spurs and more Spurs! Whether it be a young boy wearing a Tottenham hoodie or a local deli serving a special Spurs Sandwich. It's a wave of lilywhite and blue with the cockerel displayed everywhere with pride. It's Tottenham Country and we’re in the heart of it.
Our cab stops right in front of the west stand entrance and a huge board on the gate reads “Welcome To White Hart Lane”. I’m finally here. Pinch me all you want I’m not waking up – this dream has come true. We get off and our cabby once against reiterates his desire of us to thrash united this afternoon. We all applaud his gesture, thank him and make our way to the entrance. Standing at the gate and watching all the fans queue up fills my heart with pride. For the first time I’m not that out numbered Spurs fan in India, I’m not the drop of lilywhite purity in the sea of red dirt at a Delhi bar. I’m one of thousands who are proud to wear that crest on our chests as we walk into battle – I’m a part of the mighty Yid Army! COME ON YOU SPURS!
Micheal the head of social media communications for Spurs comes out to greet us. He’s super excited to see us and starts off by congratulating us on everything IndiaSpurs has done for the club in India. After a quick picture session he starts with the interview. He asks me “So what are you feeling right now? Excited? Nervous?” I reply with a simple quote:
“I’ve dreamed of this day for years and I might not know all these emotions I’m going through right now, but one thing I know for certain is that I never want this feeling to go away”.
The interview continued and I tried to put as much of the emotions I was going through into words as possible so that everyone who reads Micheals blog could try to relate it to exactly how they felt when they went for their first game or how they will feel when they make the pilgrimage in the future. I thought that standing outside waiting to go into White Hart Lane was the pinnacle of happiness I would feel that day. The anticipation and exciting bubbling out of me, I was certain that nothing could surpass that emotion, but I was wrong – it got better, much better.
We make our way into the stadium and the next set of images I saw and the subsequent emotion I felt will forever be remembered as one of the best moments of my life. I walk up the stairs and get my first look at a jammed pack White Hart Lane with that lush green pitch in the middle. I was in awe. Mesmerized by all that I just saw. I was really there inside a packed White Hart Lane with thousands of fans chanting “Come on You Spurs!”. This was better than I could have ever had dreamed of – It was the purist form of happiness I had felt since I was a young boy. I joined in on the chants and took in the whole atmosphere as much as possible. This is where I belong my soul was finally home.
It must have been a few seconds or maybe a minute as I stood awestruck but it felt like time just stood still as I embraced the moment of finally living out my dream. I found my seat right on the 18-yard line just a few feet away from the pitch. I looked all around me and let the emotion sink in. “Take pictures Akshay and remember these moments!” said Suraj as he passed me my camera. I took out my camera and did so, however I knew that from that day forth every time I would close my eyes and think of heaven I would see that image of White Hart Lane. Those images have forever been imprinted in my memory.
Everyone stood up off their chairs as the music hit and the players made their way out of the tunnel. I felt goosebumps as I saw Dawson proudly lead out the team as we prepared for battle against the red side of Manchester. You could feel the excitement in the air. However having just come off a thrashing at the hands of City, every Spurs fan at the ground and around the world was trying to play down the expectations that day. The wounds were still fresh but we all knew that It was a new day, a new challenge and that if we played the Tottenham way – anything could be achieved. I think that's why we say Audere-est-facere (To Dare Is To Do!).
There they were, a few meters ahead of where I stood - the warriors in Lillywhite on whose shoulders rest the faith of our great club. As they walked out and made there way onto the battle ground the chants becaming deafing and the atmosphere electric. “COME ON YOU SPURS – COME ON YOU SPURS” filled the stadium making it seemingly impossible to even hear your own thoughts. The referee got everything in order and blew the whistle. Tottenham Hotspurs vs Manchester United at White Hart Lane kicked off.
From the start we started playing with a desire to attack and pressure the away team. Great moment on and off the ball increased the excitement inside the ground. The cheers roared on and the songs became louder still. With every successful pass or intercepting tackle made the nerves and thoughts of the previous game faded away. For the first time this premier league season, we were playing like the old Tottenham I’ve grown up to adore. Fast attacking football. Pushing the champions on the back foot. All we needed now was a positive impression on the scoreboard and on step Kyle Walker. We won a free kick on the edge of the box on the opposite side of the pitch to where I was sitting. “Who will take it?” asked fans all around me. “I wished we had Eriksen fit, that boy would have slotted this home!” said his mate. With not too many free kick specialists on the pitch It came down to Walker to take up the responsibility. The crowd watched on nervously as the referee worked on the wall of players that separated Walker and the goal. The referee was ready and so was Walker. With a few steps and a powerful shot under the wall - the united keeper was beaten and the ball blasted through to the back of the net. White Hart Lane erupted – GOOOOALLLL!!! Everyone jumped off their seats to shout as a deafening cheer went around the stadium. I looked up at the giant screen and the score board read Spurs 1 – 0 United. We were a goal up and playing great football – this is what we all had come to see. The belief was back; COYS lets keep at it!!
The match opened up from there on it. United were now more adventurous going forward as they needed a goal. I back line played off the threat well with Moussa and Paulinho defending well too. However it was a moment of lack on concentration that gifted the away team a chance to get back into the match. Walker, caught in two minds, tapped Jones' cross into Rooney's path and he stabbed the ball past Lloris. It was 1-1 and silence from the Spurs faithful for a very brief period. But the belief was still there. We had seen so much from our team in the past 30 minutes that we knew that there was more positives to come.
The half ended on level terms and the crowd applauded the players as they went into the break. Everyone used the next 15mins to grab some food or use the washroom, however I just didn't want to spend even a moment away from the view of the lush green outfield. As I sat around I saw a familiar face making his way onto the pitch. It was the legendary Ledley King! He was in the half time show and went on to say a few words. This day was starting to have everything I wanted in my first White Hart Lane experience (expect for the united goal, of course).
Everyone made their way back to their seats as the second half kicked off. This time we were scoring on the side I was sitting on. I just prayed to God that we score another goal so I could get a perfect view of the ball sailing into the back of the net from where I was seated.
54 minutes in and my wish was answered. We had been pushing and pushing for a goal for a while now but the united defense had been stern. Not giving any space in or around the box we were often made to pass back and try again. The ball eventually fell to the beast and he uncharacteristically dribbled past a few players, made his way near the box and with a powerful right foot shot hit a thunderous swerving shot past a dumbstruck De Gea from 25 yards out. All this happened right in front of my eyes and our section had a perfect view of Sandro beating the players and smashing home the effort! The crowd went wild as Sandro who isn’t known for his goal scoring ran across the pitch towards us to celebrate! We were 2-1 and it seemed we looked good enough to win it from here.
Unfortunately this lead only lasted 3 minutes as Lloris mistimed a tackle (or so said the referee) and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Rooney and just like in the first half he took advantage of the mistake and slotted how from the spot. 2-2 and the game had changed once again. We kept up the pressure and tried to get the winning goal and the last few minutes were nerve-racking. Both teams had chances and I had no nails left to bite. The final whistle blew and the match need on , the crowd cheered on the fighting spirit of our team and the match ended 2-2.
Yes, we should have won but the emotional rollercoaster I experienced throughout the 90mintues reminded me why I love this game and the passion and fight shown by Spurs that day showed why I love Tottenham, because even when we were at our lowest moment (losing to city) we brushed ourselves off, regrouped and worked harder than ever and tried to get back to our best.
On any other day, this would have been the end of my experience at White Hart Lane. I would have take a few more pictures, savored the moment and gone back home with a big smile. But, this day was special. It surpassed all my dreams leading up to the day. As I stood around taking more pictures, I saw someone who I thought looked like Christian Eriksen, but it couldn't be him because he was standing a few rows above me in the ground. A closer look and I realized it was indeed him. I couldn't believe my luck - I get the chance to actually meet a player! I quickly got out the IndiaSpurs flag because I couldn't miss the opportunity to have a player like him endorse our supporters club. We took a few pictures together and he signed the flag. I admit it, I felt like a little boy when I asked him to sign the flag. Maybe that's what you call being star struck – yeah that's it, lets work with that. I got the opportunity to ask him a few questions (at that point remembering my name felt like an achievement). He said he felt great at the club and couldn't wait to get back to training. He enjoyed the game and knew the team will only get better as the season progressed. I wished him good luck and hoped to see him on the field soon as we made our way outside.
Once we made our way outside we were greeted with more surprises. If meeting Eriksen wasn’t enough we got a chance to hang out with more players that day. From Dawson to Vertonghen to Moussa to Sigurdsson – all of them were happy to show their support to IndiaSpurs and we were honored that they took time out to share that with us. We did however try our best to put in a cheeky comment here and there, asking them when they plan to visit India and meet the 20,000+ fans we have here. To our delight they all said they would jump at the opportunity to visit us someday soon as they knew how huge football is in India.
Overall, my first visit to White Hart Lane turned out to be one of the best moments of my life. From getting the opportunity to share my love and passion for the club through the club’s official social media accounts, to meeting my idols and future superstars of the game. Just being there with thousands of proud fans and cheering on my beloved Spurs, as they strived for victory (a few yards in front of me) was indeed a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life. With that I hope everyone who is reading this gets a similar chance to experience what I did.
All I can say is, never lose hope – because that's the funny thing in life, if you keep believing, eventually things just fall perfectly into place.
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