It is a small white brick house, typical of the North London suburbs. When we cross the threshold of the door, Maria Petri greets us with a groan. Three things upset her, this Saturday, May 7, 2022. First her body, tired. This 83-year-old Englishwoman with white hair and a face marked by age leads us with difficulty into her living room, leaning on two canes. « I hate not being independent to walk anymore », she mumbles, her left leg swollen after a second fall in the space of a month.
However, that’s nothing compared to the tone of his annoyed voice when discussing the latest news from Arsenal football club: “They changed the schedule and now girls and boys play on the same day, at the same time! At the time, I could attend all home matches. Today this is no longer possible. It makes me furious! »
The last thing that frustrates her is an end of life, which she feels is approaching. “I will be very upset when I die, I won’t be able to watch Arsenal anymore. » Two and a half months after our meeting, Maria Petri died at the age of 83. On July 22, 2022, one of the most emblematic figures in English stadiums passed away.
At Arsenal, everyone knew Maria. Or at least his voice, powerful, inexhaustible and recognizable by this mythical « Come on you Gunners! » » that she threw at the top of her lungs at the Emirates Stadium or elsewhere, at the start of each meeting of the men’s, women’s and even under-23 teams. Legend has it that she hasn’t missed a single home game in half a century.
Faced with sexism in the stands: “You will never silence me! »
Maria Petri’s love affair with Arsenal began in 1950. Born in London to Greek-Cypriot parents, just before World War II German bombs fell on the British capital, she was intrigued by eleven years old by the name of the club she first heard on the radio, while she was mopping the floor of her parents’ house. “Football is not for girls”, they replied when she asked to attend a match at the stadium. Stubborn, she emancipated herself from the family home by becoming a French teacher and then…