Sunday, September 20, 2009
The footballer above is one Henrik Larsson, born this day 1971, in Helsingborg, Sweden. You will notice that the picture seems to have been taken by a drunk monkey. Well it some respects it was, but I was sober at the time, and I am the one that took it. From my seat at the game in which I got to see my hero live and in person. He will probably be the only hero on my list that I will be able to say that I have seen live. I even got fairly close to him post-game, but managed to keep myself from fa wing all over him like I wanted to. Henke is probably going to top my hero list for a long, long time. He started his playing career at the age of 17 for Hogaborg, a local club in his home town, from there he moved to the bigger local club, Helsingborg. His first stint at Helsingborg yielded 56 goals in 50 appearances. His major move was from the Dutch club Feyenoord, to Scottish giants Celtic in 1997, and it is there that his legend was cemented. I have a friend who is from Glasgow, and who is a Celtic supporter, he would marry Larsson today if he had the chance. He isn't the only one, Larsson's time at Celtic is the stuff of football legend. He is referred to as either the Magnificent Seven (the number he wore at Celtic), or King of Kings. He made 221 appearances in a Celtic shirt, and scored a remarkable 174 goals. He remains the all time leading scoring in the Scottish Premier League. He was voted Celtic's all time greatest player in a poll conducted in 2002. He left Celtic in 2004, and joined the Spanish side Barcelona. While there he set up both goals in the 2006 UEFA Champions League final in Paris against my club Arsenal. It was a lovely, and heartbreaking performance. Watching your favourite team be sliced open by your favourite player of all time is not something I would recommend. However, any fool can look up Henke's Wikipedia page, and read about all his achievements, and the honours bestowed upon him (even including a MBE). I have seen the man player it was this year in July, and it was fantastic. I was in Sweden for a vacation, and had bought tickets to see Helsingborg (the hometown club to which he has returned) play Djugardens in Stockholm. It was going to be the highlight of the trip for me, I say going to because as I planted my ass in my seat at Djurgardens stadium Henke was nowhere to be seen. An injury had made him a last minute scratch, and he was not even on the bench. I was crushed. Here I was in fucking Sweden six thousand miles from home, and I was going to miss seeing my hero play. He was 37 years old at the time, and the number of chances to see him play live are getting pretty slim. Especially if you live in America. However, I was not to be denied. Even though it meant changing my travel plans, and ended up costing me a small fortune, I bought train tickets, and rented a hotel room in Helsingborg for the next week in hopes that Henke would play their next game. If he hadn't I would probably still be in a Swedish prison awaiting trial for the pitch invasion that I would have perpetrated on that day. He played, and his team won. Perhaps the only thing that would have made it better was if he had scored, but he didn't but I didn't care. I had got to see him play, and that was enough. I was very lucky for about 3 weeks later he broke his kneecap while playing in a Europa Cup game, and may never play football again. The picture above, and about four or five others are saved on to my hard drive, and the game is etched into my memory. I know I sound like a love struck teenage girl, but I do not care. My unabashed man love for Henke remains a running joke amongst my friends. I take it all in stride, mainly because I can not deny it even if I wanted to. So, for being a consummate professional, and for those 37 goals he has scored for the Swedish national team, and even though you ripped a little part of my heart out on May 17th 2006, Henrik Larsson (September 20th, 1971-present), you are my hero of the day.