CHINA - An elderly Chinese woman's journey, from being a school teacher to a hardcore fan of the football club, has been nothing short of amazing, as Qiu Bo discovers.
When Aaron Ramsey scored the winning goal during overtime for Arsenal in the English Football Association cup final last month, 75-year-old Liu Hongwen stood inside London's Wembley stadium, holding back tears amid the cheering crowd. "My heart almost stood still before the final whistle," she says.
The retired school teacher from Beijing is a die-hard fan of the north London club and travelled to the English capital, by herself, to watch the match. It was Arsenal's first victory in a major English football competition since 2005, when Liu started following the team.
In 2002, the football World Cup triggered Liu's love for the sport. Thereafter, her journey as a fan has been nothing short of amazing. At the time her hero was Oliver Kahn, the German goalkeeper, whose posters she still treasures. In that final, however, Brazil beat Germany by two goals.
"I cannot forget the image of Kahn flopping to the ground. His eyes were blank," Liu says.
In 1993, after three decades of teaching, Liu turned to group singing and dancing with friends in her spare time as a way of keeping herself busy. Football wasn't at the centre of her life back then.