Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Highbury library & Hasta la vista

*As Greg noted, Highbury is now open as an apartment block.
Having lived only a long ball from England's most historic stadium for most of the past decade, I've followed the metamorphosis closely, and I made sure I got on one of the last stadium tours to see it all before it fell. I'd been several times as a fan but I was amazed by the locker rooms, literally a museum piece like the rest of the ground.

While the Emirates has yet to convince me, at least the shell of the old ground has survived when many icons of the game have not e.g. Aston Villa's 1924 Trinity Road Stand or Wembley's famous twin towers. Highbury itself had lost a lot of charm some years ago when the club banned the independent street traders who spiced up a night at the Arsenal, and when newly-moneyed incomers with no passion for the game took over the neighborhood and vetoed expansion plans. But despite being past its use-by date, the old Arsenal stadium remained a beautiful dinosaur. Fulham's Craven Cottage, with its 1905 wooden Stevenage Road stand, remains England's most historic pro soccer venue, albeit with legroom for Liliputians.

*I am still trying to take in Mexico's shock withdrawal from the race to host World Cup 2018, when countries usually climb over each other to host FIFA's big show or the Olympics and the Tricolores appeared to have a good chance. For once a government seems to have had a cool financial head and realised it is not worth losing millions over years for a month-long jamboree. Mexico's bid had hinged on a mere 13 new stadia...
Good news for the US, but the European competition for 2018 still looks too fierce. 2022 is a better bet if the Euro big guns are out the picture, though Australia could prove a tough (Macadamia?) nut to crack first.

2018 bidders: Australia, Belgium & Holland, England, Indonesia, Japan, Portugal & Spain, Russia, USA
2022 bidders: Australia, Belgium & Holland, England, Indonesia, Japan, Portugal & Spain, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, USA

The 2018 hosts will be decided at FIFA Congress in December 2010 by these guys - the 25 most powerful men in soccer.

- Sean O'Conor, London

1 comment:

strago said...

I agree with you about Craven Cottage Sean. I was there with my woman last spring to see Fulham v Man yoo. What a cracking atmosphere that place has. I love how the cottage just sort of appears out of nowhere when your walking down those side streets. I wish more stadia were built in similar areas. Maybe I'm just a nostalgia freak, but I would much rather play in a place that has character than the Emirates.