Mark Higgins was my guest. A fan who has supported Arsenal for 45 years, his first game was in 1979 when The Gunners played against Stoke City at Highbury. He has been attending home and away games regularly since 1983. The main topic of our conversation was the memorable 2000 UEFA Cup Final, when Arsenal faced Galatasaray. Check this out!
Mark, you’ve been an Arsenal fan for 45 years already. You’ve traveled across all England. Tell us how did you become a Gooner?
My brother was an Arsenal fan following the 71 double and I started collecting Arsenal cards in the school playground. Alan Ball was one of first players I remember but I really started to follow the games on tv and radio and with Irish parents I felt a sense of belonging with the team. Pat Jennings and Liam Brady were my heros. The 77/78 Fa Cup run was memorable and had my first taste of disappointment in the final losing to Ipswich.
You’ve also been at many matches in Europe. Which one do you remember the most and why?
Copenhagen 94 was special but closely followed by Psg in the semi final and Real Madrid in 06. Copenhagen is a beautiful city with lovely people and the build up to the game was like a carnival with Gooners everywhere and although we were underdogs against a very strong Parma team we had a night to remember.
The UEFA Cup 2000 Final Arsenal vs Galatasaray in Copenhagen. You were present at that game, right?
Yes arrived on the day of the game due to personal commitments and the atmosphere was toxic. There had been a lot of trouble before i arrived and once in the ground the Turkish had a huge following. We didn’t play at our best and never felt confident when it went to penalties. After the game we went across to Malmo to stay with friends we met in 94.
Arsenal went to the 3rd round of UEFA tournament after they were eliminated from the Champions League group stage. On the way to the final, we defeated among others: Nantes, Deportivo La Coruna, Werder Bremen and Lens, so it’s safe to say that it was quite easy for us, right?
Not easy and i went to Bremen and Lens which were fantastic trips.
I compared our team at that time with Galatasaray squad and we theoretically outranked the Turks in every position. What do you think we lacked to win?
We just didn’t take our chances and seem to show Galatasaray too much respect.
The atmosphere of this game was very tense not only on the pitch but also outside the stadium. When you was going to Denmark, did you expect such a turn of events?
Yes build up the game was always tense and especially as what Leeds had gone through.
Galatasaray played against Leeds United in the semi-final and during the first match in Istanbul, two English fans were killed in the riots from a knife stabbing.
Terrible and doesn’t belong to football. We had made so many friends across europe and beyond and this just leaves a bitter taste for everyone.
Before the final, there was a lot of talk about the planned revenge from the English fans. For this reason, not only Arsenal fans went to Denmark, but also other British teams (Leeds, Chelsea, Rangers, Cardiff, Swansea). Both clubs and the police called for peace before the match, but it did not bring any reults.
The Copenhagen Police were ill prepared for this game and such a shame after the carnival atmosphere in 94.
The main clash of fans took place on the City Hall Square in Copenhagen. Have you witnessed these fights?
No these had taken place before I arrived.
Several Arsenal supporters were badly injured with a knife. It seems to me that the police, which were clearly not prepared for such a scale of riots, failed first of all. What do you think about it?
Very sad and what kind of person wants to use a knife at a football match?
There are a lot of photos and videos from that day on the internet and it really didn’t look safe. The media reported that 19 people were injured and about 60 arrested. What were you thinking on your way home from Copenhagen?
Very sad and bad publicity for football.
The day after, FA executive director David Davies apologized for the riots, and the UEFA executive committee warned the British government that if there were more that kind of incidents involving English fans, the England team could even be excluded from Euro 2000. What was the mood among the fans back then?
There was very bad feeling about what had happened to the Leeds fans and the media added to the tension. The English media were quick to jump on the behaviour of the english fans but didn’t tell the full story which is always frustrating for majority of well behaved supporters.