Thursday 20th July 2017
Sitting on my very comfortable train currently hammering it somewhere north of Shanghai I have a dilemma. My ticket price includes some food and drink and it has recently arrived. Having consumed the small packet of curry flavoured dried ‘meat’ I don’t know what to enjoy next. Should I go for the ‘Mixed Peanuts, Broad Beans and Peas’ or the packet that simply states ‘Do Chinese Own Happy Ginkgo’?!
Whilst giving those options consideration I am taking this opportunity to record my latest thoughts as this epic pre-season tour approaches it’s latter stages.
The absolutely vast city of Shanghai is currently experiencing a heatwave. Consequently the humidity has been almost unbearable. The air conditioning inside buildings and/or the city’s metro system has proved to be an absolute necessity at times.
Sunday’s flight proved smooth and unproblematic, something that can’t be said for the club’s staff and officials apparently having been held by Chinese customs for 5 hours demanding a large payment to even let them into the country.
But this is a part of the world where anything is possible. Having checked in to our accommodation for the next 4 nights, I met with fellow Gooner and friend ‘Gonk’ recently arrived from the UK to enjoy a couple of beers in the searing heat. And on the table next to us was a monkey. In full clothing, wearing slippers, a rucksack on its back and eating his fruit based dinner. Of course there was.
Rising quite late on Monday we headed into the financial district with its quite incredible skyline and joined the many fanatical Chinese Gooners for a fans party in the basement of the players’ hotel that saw 6 of our squad in a Q and A session followed by an amusing attempt at some kung fu moves.
This was followed by a trip to the fascinating Tianzifang Market and a kind of cocktail bar tour late on that proved highly entertaining for the slightly crazy yet inspirational variety of fare and watching the talented staff knocking up their creations. Crispy bacon with a cocktail! Whatever next!? But it kinda worked you know….
Tuesday included a trip to the Jade Buddha Temple, slightly disappointing if I’m honest, the city’s huge number of high rise accommodation blocks making it feel like the A13 in Barking instead of the tranquil setting amongst the carnage that I kind of expected.
With the heat becoming more and more stifling we then made the decision to let one of those open top bus sightseeing things take the strain for an hour or so. A quick look at the Yuyuan Market and a good way to see the city but the reduction in body temperature was not forthcoming.
I have been to Shanghai before as part of the previous pre-season tour in this part of the world but with games in Yiwu and Beijing, our Tuesday evening’s visit to the imposing Stadium for open training was a first. Again, one for the passionate and fanatical locals, the heat making it difficult to ‘enjoy’.
It was cocktails once again to finish the day (what has happened to me!?!), ingredients such as blue cheese proving once again it’s amazing what actually works in these drinks! And the gamble with late night ‘street food’ followed, one that appears to have paid off!
Wednesday and it was match day. With our host city being absolutely fascinating we felt we needed to witness something perhaps a little more ‘traditional’. So a taxi was take to Zhujiajiao, an ancient town with 1700 years of history about an hour from the city centre. Well worth a visit it proved a good idea although I would be lying if I didn’t admit we struggled with the heat once again.
But if that was hot, it was nothing compared to the stadium for the match. Guilty of simply walking from the metro and putting my flag on display, I have never been so hot in all my life!
With the local and travelling Gooners pretty much matched in numbers by those supporting Bayern it was to prove a pretty competitive and entertaining game. And ultimately, with our late late show, it was the former who went home happiest.
Without meaning to be detrimental to some of the players who played the team had a makeshift look to it in certain areas and as a result we rode our luck at times and Petr Cech was in fine form. But the penalty was ‘soft’ and Theo, Mesut and in particular Alexandre failed to convert 3 excellent chances.
Given our previous 2 games in China against Man City and Hangzhou Greentown didn’t provide a huge amount for our Chinese fanbase to enjoy I was genuinely chuffed for all of them when they got to see our cracking late equaliser. The joy on their faces was a heartwarming sight. And given the fact I hate losing at anything it was pleasing for us too as we struggled to avoid passing out in the heat!
There was some confusion as to what happened next but the penalty shoot out proved successful and the Arsenal end of the ground enjoyed it to the full, a funny old ending to an interesting night.
Dr Beer and World of Beer don’t really need any explanation as to what they specialise in and they played host for a couple of thirst quenchers post match, their air conditioning proving as welcome as their beer menu.
Early this morning it was off to Shanghai’s enormous Hongqiao, the largest railway station in the whole of Asia as we move on.
And that is the trip up to date.
Another win….of sorts…..just. And the city of Beijing awaits for the very last leg.
Please let it be a little bit cooler!!
Right…..where’s that peanut/bean thing…..