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Player of the week - My Thierry amour

2014-12-21 16:43

By (chinadaily.com.cn)

Player of the week - My Thierry amour

Many Chinese fans bade farewell to retired French soccer great Thierry Henry with mixed feelings.

Player of the week - My Thierry amour

People tend to regard the 37-year-old as purely an Arsenal legend despite the fact that the well-traveled forward also played for AS Monaco, Juventus, Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls. They have good reason to do so.

Henry was an unknown winger at Juventus, and may have remained as obscure as many other young professionals until Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, his countryman with whom he later developed a father-son relationship, took him to Highbury in 1999.

Wenger switched him to a central role which proved tailor-made for the speedster who was to become one of the most feared strikers in Europe. The 228 goals he scored remain the club record and two Premier League trophies and membership of "The Invincibles" which he led through an unbeaten Premier League season in 2003-04, will long remain in the collective memory of the Arsenal faithful.

Following the announcement this week that Henry is to retire and become a Sky Sports soccer analyst, many fans poured out their emotions on the club's official Sina Weibo account, a popular microblogging service in China. They said the Frenchman was the reason they chose Arsenal as their lifelong team to support and woke at midnight - with Beijing eight hours ahead of London - to watch the North Londoners on TV.

For many Chinese, soccer together with staying up late to watch a match and letting their emotions get the better of them is a passion solely for their youth.

Gone now is not only their school-age idol, but also their young, carefree selves.

This probably makes it harder to say goodbye.

King of Highbury

Henry's ardent fans recall countless unforgettable moments: he sprinted; dribbled; tricked opposition defenders; volleyed the ball in a fantastic arc into the far corner of the net; slid on his knees in celebration; gave a proud Wenger a big hug; rocked the entire stadium with a winner against arch-rival Manchester United and kissed the Highbury turf before Arsenal left to move to the new Emirates Stadium. These are among the moments cited by fans that made him immortal.

So immortal that Arsenal erected a statue, dedicated to the former icon, at the Emirates.

Henry loves the club back too. The former captain recalled the 78th minute winner he scored after coming off the bench in an FA Cup tie against Leeds United in 2012 as his favorite goal for the club. The then 34-year-old Henry had returned to London on loan from the New York Red Bulls.

Despite the deep feelings he had developed for Arsenal and Wenger, he still chose to leave in 2007 seeking a Champions League title, an honor to elude him with the Gunners but finally achieved in Barcelona.

He didn't end up devoting his entire career to one club as Paolo Maldini did for AC Milan, but spent his golden era with Arsenal and the fans seem to settle for that.

Henry's retirement echoed a video made by China Central Television's sports channel in 2010 and hailed as one of the best productions paying tribute to him.

Some fans said they couldn't help but shed tears when recalling some of the program they claimed as the best to sum up what Henry means to them.

"He was the captain. He was a leader. He was a legend. He was a striker. He was the Gunners' king," they quoted the program as saying.

The video highlighted Henry's reign at Arsenal's old stadium in North London's Highbury, with the scene of him kissing the turf during the club's farewell match at the stadium on May 6, 2007 deemed the most tear-jerking moment.

For this proof that history made by a great player defies time, thank you, Titi.