For three days I'd been ringing people saying I'd got a spare ticket for Arsenal, top seat, West Stand Upper, only £50, who wants it. I'd already paid my friend for it, the one from whom I rent a half-season ticket, as he was going to be away. I thought I'd take my son, as a treat, though he hates Arsenal, being a true Spurs fan, unlike some he could name (ie, his old man). But he couldn't make it. I tried two people in our street, who always boast that they are Arsenal fans, with no luck. I left a message for Ken Loach, who lives behind us. He likes football and is not prejudiced, but by 11.30 he hadn't replied, so off I went with my next-door neighbours in a minicab, clutching my spare ticket.
The traffic was terrible. The driver, who smelled strongly of aftershave and had a large "I Love Jesus" sticker on his dashboard, got stuck taking a daft detour, but all I could think about was my spare ticket. The waiting list for Arsenal season tickets is 20 years.
I can't possibly throw away fifty quid. Oh what a mess. I won't even be able to tell my wife. I'm the one in this house who goes on constantly about waste. I could sell it to a tout, and they will get £100 for it, but then some poor sod will have to sit next to me and I'll feel guilty he's been ripped off.
We were running so late that I realised we'd miss kick-off, so I was leaning over the driver's shoulder, begging him to hurry up, when I noticed in the corner of his window a little sticker - for Arsenal. Beside him, rolled up, was a baseball cap with the Gunners symbol.
He was an Arsenal fan, had followed them for 14 years since coming from Ghana - but had never gone to a game. I said it's your lucky day. I have a spare ticket, only £50. He made a face. His wife would never forgive him. He would lose two hours' work. With four young children and a rental to the cab firm of £120 a week in cash to find, he couldn't afford not to work all day. Anyway, what would he do with his own car?
Good point. The reason we'd taken a minicab was that you can't park, not for a Saturday game. Prue from next door, who was going to her first football match, said what about Waitrose car park? It's free for two hours, and then it's only £10, which she said she'd pay. The driver sighed, his eyes turned upwards longingly, but no, he just couldn't. I said OK, then. You can have my ticket for nothing. Still he said no.
We were in sight of the new stadium when we hit another huge traffic jam. The driver turned down a side street - and we found ourselves at the entrance to the Waitrose car park. It's a sign, I said. Jesus has spoken. He held his arms up in the air, clutched his forehead, then parked the car.
As we walked to the ground, he started ringing his friends, his wife and children, telling them he was on his way to Highbury, speaking half in English, half in Twi. He's an Akan, he said, the majority people of Ghana. Several times he handed the phone to me so I could confirm that I'd given him a ticket.
He started following Arsenal when he first came to London, working as a presser in a sweatshop, because he liked Paul Davis and Michael Thomas. Although he'd never seen a game, he did visit Highbury every year - to buy an Arsenal calendar to hang up in his house in Leyton. His own children follow Aston Villa and Man U. Eventually, he wants to retire to Ghana. The thought of living there appals his children, though they like it for hols.
Arsenal, being a foreign team, does have one Ghanaian, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, but he wasn't playing. Marcel Desailly, ex-France and Chelsea, born in Ghana, is a national hero, said my new friend. Throughout the match, he was either jumping up and down, laughing and clapping, or on his mobile, letting his friends hear the crowd roaring. At half-time, I took his photo with his phone, proof that he'd been there.
It was quite a boring game, 1-1 in the Cup against Sheffield United, but not to him. And I was pleased by his pleasure.
Not like me to be so generous, so my dear wife kindly pointed out when I came home. You've got me wrong, I said, glowing with virtue. It's good to be good. We're all one nation in football.