BY ALAN RANSCOMBE / @AlanRRan
In late 2008, my daughters Sian and Evie had part time waitressing jobs at a bar and restaurant called the Maze Inn in North London, where some of the Arsenal players sometimes went to eat. As Arsenal fans (encouraged by my wife, Teresa and I – both of us lifelong Gooners) they were delighted to meet the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby and Philippe Senderos. They also met and spoke to regulars Bacary Sagna and his wife, Ludivine.
In January 2009, Sian held a birthday celebration at the Maze Inn and Teresa and I went along after dinner. Bacary and Ludivine were there for a meal that night and the girls introduced us. We had a lovely chat with this delightful couple, telling them that we were all going to the upcoming away leg of the Champions League tie with Roma in March and, to my delight, Bacary told me he would give me his shirt (unprompted!)
The Roma match was typically fraught as our slender 1-0 advantage from the home leg was cancelled out early in normal time and extra time brought no further goals. So it went to penalties, which we edged 7-6 with Sagna scoring his. The away end went wild with joy and relief, the players came over to us and I saw Sagna throw his shirt into the fans down at the front. In the mayhem, I turned to Teresa and the girls and said, only half jokingly, “But that’s my shirt!”
A few days later, after the league match at Newcastle, Sagna arrived at the Maze Inn, fresh off the plane, and handed Evie a signed shirt, saying “This is for your father”. When I was given it, I couldn’t believe that he had remembered his vague promise and had made a special visit to keep it. I was truly touched.
Of course, when you see how he plays football and handles himself, this should not have been a surprise to me. He always gives 100% and has performed magnificently since his first match without any fuss whatsoever - so much so that us fans have come to expect it.
Truly a class act, he has got dodgy hair and I don’t care, but I did most definitely want him to stay.