Baby Birch and her Arsenal debut – Part One!

The shortened version of this blog, a collaborative piece written with my beautiful wife Malina, originally appeared in issue 290 of The Gooner fanzine but the day meant so much to us both that we wanted to share the full version!
Malina: There are a few proud moments parents can expect during the first year of their baby’s life. First word, first step or first solid snack independently munched with the help of the child’s first couple of teeth. But not many could include the first goal celebrations of their 9 month old attending her first live game at the Emirates stadium. Seeing Liliana in red and white, clapping vigorously and shouting among thousands of other rejoicing supporters was definitely one of those occasions where the memory will stay with us forever. Not only was she the youngest attendee to watch Arsenal vs Norwich on a sunny September afternoon in London but she must also have been the first baby ever to dance to ‘Sweet Caroline’ the last time she was in Eaglet pub whilst still in my womb, celebrating our 2020 FA Cup victory, and little over a year later, celebrating all three points taken from The Canaries.
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Baby Birch!

Nick: I attended my first ever Arsenal game when I was around 5 years old and have been what I consider to be a match going regular since I was 9. With my wife Malina being a Gooner too, it was always going to be a case of when we would take Liliana to her first match, rather than if. With colder weather likely to approach in the coming weeks and months, we decided our home fixture with Daniel Farke’s side would be the one. For many, 9 months would be considered too young but knowing the character of our beautiful little girl and the comfort she’s always taken from hearing crowd noises on TV, particularly during lockdown, we knew it was the right time. It could also be said that her 3 older siblings make more noise than the Emirates faithful too so there were no concerns in that area!
Malina: Introducing our own baby to something extremely important to us, making her part of the Arsenal community, letting her meet our match day friends and showing her the atmosphere of the stadium during the game that for many was the first after a very long time – all of above makes it difficult to describe the emotions involved. I genuinely believed the happiness I experienced when little over 3 years ago I went to my first ever game and took my eldest daughter Maya with me wouldn’t be matched, but I was mistaken. At the time I was a single mum of three with absolutely no plans for another relationship, I had just got back on my feet after hardship times and was able to do what I always wanted – attending live sporting events, especially football matches. Who would have thought that actively supporting The Arsenal will become the beginning of the most beautiful love story that would ultimately lead two passionate Gooners to their wedding ceremony followed by the birth of their baby girl, all in less than 2 years!
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Travelling to the game!

Nick: Having had the privilege of being able to frequently watch my beloved team play live for over 30 years and witnessing some amazing teams and successes in the process, I honestly didn’t think it was possible to feel any more pride on a match day. I was wrong. Put simply, my chest was absolutely bursting with it when I was accompanied at the game by both my wife and daughter. Particularly as like many, we hadn’t seen most of our friends since before lockdown, which was prior to our wedding and Liliana’s arrival too. With the train carriages packed and nobody prepared to offer Malina their seat so she could feed a ravenous Liliana, sadly, our journey began with a hunger tantrum through no fault of Little Miss Birch’s own. With Liliana’s vocal cords well and truly warmed up, thankfully, this proved to be the only time she stopped sharing her infectious smile all day.
Malina: Can you recall that day you went to see the Gunners for the very first time? Or when you took your own child to their first game? Or maybe it was your grandchild you proudly introduced to the world of The Arsenal? I’m sure each of you would have very fond memories of that particular day! I’m aware Liliana won’t remember her first trip to the Emirates due to her young age but the pictures, videos and pieces of writing like our article will be always there for her to look at and read when she’s a bit older. As her parents we just need to make sure that one day she has a full understanding of the club’s values, it’s history and tradition so her support will come naturally through real passion and not just because we wanted her to become one of us.
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Proudest day!

Part two to follow…

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