An Inspiring Game

Monday, May 19, 2014

From Saturday morning until Saturday afternoon, I was in a pub downtown watching my favorite soccer team, Arsenal, haul in its first trophy in nine years. The game was hardly easy to watch at first, since Hull City jumped to a two-nil lead within the first eight minutes, making the game look like it was going to become yet another of the odd big-game collapses that ended the team's league title challenge early. But the  Gunners collected themselves and then patiently crafted a memorable comeback to become the first side in half a century to overcome such a deficit in the F. A. Cup final. Fittingly, it was Aaron Ramsey's first-touch goal off a sweet back-heel by Olivier Giroud that won the game during extra time.

This game was huge for the player and the club. Ramsey had just returned from an injury that sidelined him for half the season -- a brilliant season that marked his own long physical and psychological comeback from a much worse, career-threatening injury a few years ago:

In what can only be described as a tackle that [bordered] on assault, [Ryan] Shawcross almost ended the career of a young man with his whole future ahead of him.

I remember thinking, that's it, he'll never be the same. When he came back all indications were he was never going to reach that super status that he deserved. He came back to us on loan and was very good, but you could see he wasn't the same player going in for the hard tackles.

I'm not for a minute suggesting he didn't give everything, but you could see there was something not right. After playing his last game on loan to us, again coincidentally against Hull City, he went back to Arsenal and some of their fans were grumbling about him, and there was talk of him leaving.

This season he has shown the world what the Bluebirds knew seven years ago, this kid is for real.

Today's winning goal has capped off an amazing journey from Sloper Road to Wembley Way that couldn't have been written better by Hollywood writers. [links added]
As for the club,  Arsenal hadn't won a trophy in nine years. This fact, in the context of the level of talent on the team and its pedigree, was a big monkey that the team needed to get off its back, and I further would have to agree with Tom J. Doyle of that the way the team won was probably good in the long run for its nucleus of young stars:
In some ways, this hard-fought victory could be better for Arsenal's young stars than a breezy victory over Hull. To come back from the initial shock of a two-goal deficit and land the trophy will serve them well for future challenges, and will teach them not to underestimate the profound effect that a sense of occasion can bring to a side on any given day.

The doubt that has stalked the Arsenal camp this season like a creeping death can now be dispensed with as they are finally trophy winners once again, the name of this famous club engraved in silverware once more.
This game was captivating, although not often for the beautiful moves the team is famous for, but that's fine by me. Even the best sides have off-days on which they have to grind out a result, and I'll take the inspirational example of Aaron Ramsey and the chance for Arsenal to build on this any time.

-- CAV

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