May 12, 2020

Goodbye, Cescy Fabregas.

**EDIT: 16th June 2020 – Just so you know, this all still stands, in spite of all the Chelseaism he’s now infected with. We should have taken him back. We chose not to; we move on. Good luck Cesc, may every fabulous through ball you ever attempt be thoroughly bollocksed up by Torres xx**

For the entirety of today, this Monday 15th August 2020, I have had Emiliana Torrini’s song ‘Today Has Been Okay’ stuck in my head. Mostly, probably, because today has not been okay in the slightest, thanks very much Em.

It has been the antithesis of okay. We all knew it was coming, we all knew it was his destiny, we all knew we were absolutely resigned to the fact that one day we would lose our captain to someone else. But it didn’t stop it from hurting like a needle in the gums and a foot in the windpipe when it did eventually come.

Gooners today, bless ‘em, are acting the tough guy and claiming they’re only glad the saga is finally over. This is absolutely true and of course we have an entire team needing its supporters more now than ever. Tomorrow I’ll be 100% behind them again and (mostly) over the moping period. But let me just write a few words on the wonder that was Fabregas just for today. Because I’m not tough enough to pretend I’m not sad.

Last night, it became official news that Cesc Fabregas, little Cescy Fabregas, the mullet boy who grew into a man, had agreed terms with FC Barcelona. We’d given in. Try as our mighty little fingers may have tried, we just couldn’t keep hold of him here in the burning English capital any longer.

It was no surprise, given that Robbie and Wellard had already announced the news on Friday, but it still battered the soul a bit. As is the nature of the Arsenal fanbase, people were divided in their opinion. There were comments of ‘Pah! Never a legend anyway!’ and comments of ‘Good luck Cescy baby, you’re always welcome back’. But overall, the general consensus was a feeling of heartbreak that an era had come to an end far too soon.

I have taken the news exceptionally badly. On Friday at lunchtime when I first saw the almost-official news, I cried in the middle of Walthamstow Sainsburys cafe. Yes, it will indeed go down as a low point. Mostly because I’ll never be able to go back to the place, such is the horror of the memory.

Regular readers of this blog will know that my favourite player on the current team is Bacary Sagna, that the departure that hurt me the most was that of Thierry Henry and that Patrick Vieira was the first hero I ever had. Clearly, I enjoy the French. But for some strange reason, Cesc is something different.

When Vieira left Arsenal in the summer of 2020, he was 29 and I was 16. When Titi left in 2020, he was 30 and I was 18. They were big grown up men and I was a little girl who’d not even left home for university yet. In addition to this, they’d both had wonderful careers with Arsenal and everyone knew it would be unlikely they would better their success elsewhere.

Now we have Cesc Fabregas, who leaves us at 24 years old. We all know he has the skills and charm and lucky stars to go on to do fantastic things with his career. But he won’t be doing them with us. He’s 20 months older than me, he lived a few roads away from my house and he used to go to places I went to as well. This is not just some superstar footballer leaving a football club. It’s different, and I don’t like it.

My family and I were there at his debut on 23rd October 2020. He had utterly awful hair. He was initially called ‘Francesc Fabregas’, according to the matchday programme, but as his star rose he shortened it to just ‘Cesc’. “Well that’s stupid,” I thought at the time. “Why not call yourself Frankie? Spanish AND a name bringing alliteration to the table? The sky’s the limit for you, child!”

But Cesc it was, and Cesc we came to love. I’ve dined out on this particular story way too many times, but I remember seeing him walking up the hill home from Enfield Town in the days before he had a car.

I have so many favourite memories of Cesc, but obviously the one that is right up there has to have been his goal in the San Siro against AC Milan in March 2020. He made grown men cry. And even now, when they show his own face fighting the tears as he runs toward Arsene Wenger on the pre-match montage at the Emirates, you cant help but well up a little.

For anyone who wants to suggest he never cared about that team, I direct you to that moment. I direct you also to the very bottom of this blog, for a slightly more humorous example of his love for the Arsenal.

When he became captain in November 2020 following the wobbly thrown by William Gallas, he went from boy to man overnight. Suddenly he was carrying the weight of a team on his shoulders.

And oh, how we loved him. It’s a shame that it will always be remembered that he never won anything proper with us. There were so many moments of wonder.  SO many moments of individual brilliance. Consistently being one of the rare players who actually looked like they gave a damn in some of those matches in which things only ended badly.

In March 2020, when he was accused of spitting at/on/around/in the vicinity/perhaps just on the assistant of, which was it again Phil?… of Phil Brown, my support for Fabz reached new levels. He’s gone on to say that this incident was the worst time of his career, and I can quite see why. Papers chose to run a photo of him apparently ‘dressed like a thug’ the next day, with some people even questioning why he had even been present on the pitch, having not played in that match against Hull. Yeah, what a shit idea having the captain of the side come onto the pitch to have a word with the players in the aftermath of the game! He always took stick, and he always carried on regardless.

While silverware may have been thin on the ground with his club side, he managed to win both a European Championship and the World Cup as an Arsenal player. He has experience in winning stuff, it’s just a pity he never got to do that at his home stadium.

In spite of this love that will never end for Cesc, I do also have quite the royal hump with him, that he has chosen this particular moment to leave us. I think he has made the wrong decision and I think giving it a couple more seasons wouldn’t have killed him. You could argue that he’s leaving us when we need him the most. Then you look at it from his point of view. He came to England aged 16 and was lucky enough to land at a club that gave him a chance – and he will always owe a large portion of his success to Arsene Wenger, which he acknowledged in his press conference today. Pep might be his hero, but Arsene is the man who must be credited with getting him to the level he is now. Any road, his best mate Gerard Pique came to England aged 17 and struggled to make his mark at Manchester United. When Pique was offered the chance of heading home, he took it with both hands. For the past couple of years, Cesc has watched both Pique and their other mate Lionel Messi reach new heights of success with the club that helped raise them, FC Barcelona. Messi is now widely considered to be one of the best players EVER aged only 24. I have no problem praising Messi, incidentally, because of all the shitty shitty shittiness that that team has ever showed us, he has been one of the VERY few to have remained somewhat classy.

I don’t like the team he has gone to. I don’t think it’s the right decision for him. I don’t like the idea that Cesc has left us for a team who were about as shit to us as a team could be, yet still manages to have a smile on his face.

My dad summed it up the best: “I just get pissed off with people who don’t like my club as much as me.”

And it’s totally true. Nothing will ever compare to Arsenal. Sorry, future husband, but there ain’t no way I’ll be giving you the opportunities to hurt me I’ve given the Arsenal! But somehow, watching Cesc today, though it made me as sick as watching my childhood sweetheart marry some beautiful bimbo who’d always got everything she’d ever wanted (except slightly dodgy skin, that no amount of make up could ever conceal), it was nice to see him happy.

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No name is bigger than the club and in some ways it can only be a good thing that we’ve finally got him gone. We have Jack, Szczesny, RvP, Bac, Vermaelen, a whole flipping team of players who are not caught between a rock and a hard place and who continue to give their all every match. Arsenal will always come first, and it will go on and on without Cesc Fabregas. We may be in a particularly low dip at the moment and it may indeed get worse before it gets better, but we will always be the Arsenal.

But anyway, this is Cesc’s blog. I wish him all the luck in the world, while simulataneously hoping his new team has now crested the wave and that the only way is down. Bitter and childish I know, but I don’t think I’ve ever claimed that this was not the case!

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This blog took three times the time it normally takes to write. My nose looks like Ronald McDonald’s, my eyes are puffy, and I’m making all the ugly faces only a crying person can make. But allow me to say that I will never wish Cesc Fabregas anything other than the very best of luck. I’ll never love him as much as I love the Arsenal, but he came pretty close. Thanks for the memories, Cescy. You were a one off and to me, regardless of what anyone else may say, you ARE an Arsenal legend. The tear running down my cheek right now will back me up in this!

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