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When Mathieu Flamini decided to break Arsenal's 'unwritten rule' and cut his sleeves

Jack Kenmare

Published 
| Last updated 

When Mathieu Flamini decided to break Arsenal's 'unwritten rule' and cut his sleeves

Mathieu Flamini broke a long-standing tradition during his second spell at Arsenal, and it caused an almighty row with former kit man Vic Akers in the Old Trafford changing room.

Up until Arsene Wenger's later years as manager, Arsenal used to have a tradition where the entire team had to wear the same shirt-sleeve length as their captain, something that existed way before Wenger arrived in North London.

On one occasion, during a clash against Manchester United in 2013 – a match they went on to lose – midfielder Flamini decided to get the scissors out, despite captain Thomas Vermaelen opting for long sleeves.

Image credit: Alamy
Image credit: Alamy

Flamini's decision to cut off his sleeves infuriated Arsenal legend Vic Akers, who spent 32 years in North London as the club's kit man.

And after the Gunners fell to a 1-0 defeat thanks to former Arsenal forward Robin van Persie, a furious row in the Old Trafford dressing room broke out.

Akers was recently asked about the incident involving Flamini during an Instagram Live with US women’s team Murrieta Surf Soccer Club and it doesn't sound pretty.

"I went mad. I went mad, I didn’t realise that he had done it until they went out," he said.

"Manchester United had a sort of bin, a rubbish bin, just by the back of the door and as the team were leaving and going out I would go out at the end. As I went to go past this bin I saw the sleeve in it.

"I’m saying to my boy, I went 'Paul, get out there and see who’s got a sleeveless shirt on now' and it was him [Flamini]. And of course I went mad.

"Obviously during the game I can’t do a lot and say a lot. But after the game I could and I said to him, 'You’re out of order'

"He replied, 'I don’t have to' and I said 'Yeah you do, this is Arsenal football club, we all go together, not you as an individual going and doing something different, that’s not the way the club works'.

"Anyway, it all got put right and he got pulled up by the gaffer in that week after the game."

Image credit: Alamy
Image credit: Alamy

Akers added: "You’re either a team or you’re not a team. And that’s exactly how I used to react and players should all have got around me and said, 'Yeah you’re right, that’s what we do'.

"I remember Bacary Sagna saying at the time in the dressing room after the game, 'He’s right, you do what he says and what we’ve already told you to do. He’s told us we’re going to wear them sleeves so we wear those sleeves.'

"It was not a great moment at Manchester United for me."

Several days later and Flamini would cut the sleeves off his match shirt for the second consecutive game – a Champions League clash against Marseille.

Arsene Wenger proceeded to ban the French midfielder from doing it again. 'I don't like that," he said when asked about the incident at full-time. "It won't happen again."

Flamini, meanwhile, defender his actions after the Marseille match, saying: "I've been playing at the top level for 10 years and I like to wear short sleeves. It is what I like."

Image credit: Alamy
Image credit: Alamy

The famous sleeve tradition at Arsenal – a staple at the club since 1966, instigated by then-manager Bertie Mee – was eventually binned after several players complained.

Akers expressed his disappointment at the tradition being scrapped during an interview in 2018 and blamed a couple of players in the squad who refused to stick by it.

"Well unfortunately I think that went a wee bit over the last two years,” he told Sky Sports. “Certain individuals wanted to wear the opposite and they got their way.

“Sadly that tradition has almost gone now. Very sad.”

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Arsenal, Premier League, Arsene Wenger, Champions League, Marseille, Manchester United

Jack Kenmare
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