Inside Arsenal’s Buckingham Palace visit – from ringtone blunder to Queen’s gift

Arsenal were the first and only football club to ever be invited to Buckingham Palace for afternoon tea with the Queen.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had been scheduled to cut the ribbon and officially open the club’s new stadium in the summer of 2006. But after hurting her back, it was Prince Philip who stepped in to mark the opening of the Emirates Stadium.

The Queen, disappointed at missing the event, decided to make up for it by inviting the squad to Buckingham Palace later that season in February 2007. And the visit went exactly as one might expect for a group of footballers not quite accustomed to their surroundings in the palace.

Daily Star Sport reflects on that momentous day as the world mourns the loss of Her Majesty at the age of 96.

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Footage from a BBC documentary captured the Arsenal team bus’ arrival at the palace. Dressed immaculately at the front of the coach, Arsene Wenger took in his surroundings and pointed out: “It’s quite big.”

“You could play a big football match in here,” the charming Frenchman added while observing the area outside, before letting out his famously cheeky smile.

Thierry’s wardrobe malfunction

Arsenal captain Thierry Henry was tasked with introducing the Queen to his fellow team-mates. The striker at the time was king of the footballing world himself, having played in both the Champions League and World Cup finals the previous year.

Yet the Frenchman, who is usually known for his sense of style, appeared slightly flustered while waiting to talk to Her Majesty, and had forgotten to do up the top button of his shirt. Luckily, the Queen excused his fashion faux pas and the two hit it off while chatting about the Gunners’ recent win.

Rogue Nokia

Arsenal’s multicultural group of stars nervously awaited the Queen inside the palace with a cup of tea. But as she was being introduced to the likes of Gilberto Silva and Denilson, a classic Nokia phone ringtone went off.

The Queen, classy as ever, continued greeting the players without acknowledging the cringe-worthy mishap by one of the Arsenal’s players or staff.

The Eboue show

Former Arsenal jokester Emmanuel Eboue was in attendance and made full use of the rare opportunity to meet the monarch. The Ivorian offered her a full bow when being introduced, but left his team-mates clenching their teeth with an outrageous request to look after her corgis, despite being warned by Henry to be on his best behaviour beforehand.

The ex-defender revealed: “So the Queen came in and went along shaking each player's hand. After she'd finished I saw all her corgis so I said, 'Ma'am, Ma'am'. She turned back and asked, 'How are you?'

“And I said, 'Ma'am, I am OK thank you but please, I don't want to be a footballer any more, I want to look after your dogs. I want to take them for walks, wash them, feed them. I want to be a dog carer’.

“The Queen, honestly, she was laughing. Prince Philip was laughing too. All the team were laughing."

Parting gifts

At the end of the visit, the Gunners decided to give back by gifting Her Majesty a miniature statue of the club emblem – a cannon. Manager Wenger offered a cheeky jibe, saying: “This is not to incite you to start a war”, which the Queen luckily saw the funny side of.

And she was even given a parting recommendation by Henry about visiting club physio Gary Lewin, who later went on to serve the England national team.


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