Baby Birch and her Arsenal debut – Part Two!

If you enjoyed reading part one, here’s part two!

Nick: For someone accustomed with heading straight to the boozer upon my arrival in the Finsbury Park vicinity, it was an unusual experience for me to do the stereotypical tourist thing of seeking out potential photo opportunities instead. Our first port of call was the Arsenal tube station, where the underground signage provided an excellent backdrop for Liliana’s beaming face. After completing the first photoshoot of the day and with kick off drawing nearer, a brief pit stop was made in the Indiebeer bar, where my dad, brother, nephew and a several friends were already congregated. Our little Goonerette was in top form as she was passed around person to person for cuddles and paraded in a similar fashion to how our players showed off the prestigious FA Cup trophy after winning it last year! Then it was time for Liliana’s Eaglet debut and a big thank you goes to Lee for storing her buggy in the back room during the game! I did joke that we only brought it with us so that Malina could push me home in it after I’d enjoyed my usual volume of match day alcohol consumption! As an Eaglet regular, many of our friends were in attendance. Liliana was treated like a mini celebrity and we promised to return after the game!

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Malina: Seeing Nick’s face throughout the day, knowing how long he’s been waiting for that moment, made me emotional and I won’t lie – even writing this brings tears to my eyes! There aren’t many things as satisfying as witnessing the man who became a husband and a father, showing his wife and their offspring to the people he considers his second family. Nick might be an undemonstrative man but on that day he was floating, wore a big smile on his face and even danced with his little princess. Those who regularly attend our home and away games told me they’ve never seen him so happy and proud. And that’s what every wife wants to hear because there’s nothing more important in life than doing what you love, loving what you do and doing it with people who not only understand you but are part of it.

Nick: On route to our seats, which unusually for me, were in the upper tier for this specific match, we were frequently stopped by fellow supporters asking how old Liliana is. Judging from their surprised reactions, it was the first time many of them had ever seen a baby at the Emirates! Instead of being critical, most were full of praise and seemed inspired about bringing their own children to future fixtures. Liliana seemed happy taking in her new surroundings, having woken up as the players came out the tunnel for kick off. We even managed to get an adorable video clip of her clapping after what proved to be our winning goal. Three points to the good, we headed back to the Eaglet where Liliana showed off her best dance moves. Her favourite tracks appeared to be Suspicious Minds and like many a fan, Sweet Caroline!

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Enjoying the goal celebrations!

Malina: The Arsenal means so much to both of us, for Nick it’s been a very long journey he shares with his Dad and Brother. For me it’s always going to be seen as a blessing because it changed my life forever. What once was to me only a sport, a team, a game, a competition became an irreplaceable family tradition we are going to pass onto the next generation. It’s never ‘just a game’ when it unites people, forms the friendships and creates amazing memories. It’s so much more than ‘a beautiful game’ when you hear a mighty roar coming from the stadium after your team scores the winning goal which you can celebrate with people you love the most.

Nick: Our supporters get a lot of criticism on social media, with many generalising that we have the worst fans in sport. However, after the kindness shown towards Liliana, not only from people who we know personally but complete strangers too, I believe we also have some of the best. The way people interacted with her, along with the result too, made our day a memorable one. Having said our goodbyes, we had one last activity to tick off on our to do list. Take some photos outside the ground with the legendary statues of course! It had been a long day for all involved and thankfully, with the sun going down, the bags forming under our eyes were hidden from view as the three of us waved Thierry, Tony and Dennis goodbye until the next time…

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