February 22, 2014 / 1:57 PM / in 4 years

Arsenal honor Bergkamp with statue at stadium

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal unveiled a statue of former striker Dennis Bergkamp on Saturday, the Dutchman becoming the fourth club great to be cast in bronze outside the Emirates Stadium in London.

Arsenal fans look at a statue of former striker Dennis Bergkamp after it was unveiled before their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium in London, February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples

In 11 years at Arsenal, Bergkamp, 44, scored 120 goals in 423 appearances and won seven major honors.

The former Netherlands international also made a key contribution to Arsenal’s historic undefeated Premier League season in 2003-04.

Over 2,000 fans turned out to see the player voted in 2008 the second-greatest to have represented the club.

“They asked me, ‘Is it ok if we build this statue for you outside the stadium?’ I was like, ‘You have to ask me? It’s fantastic, it’s overwhelming I‘m really honored.’ So of course I said yes,” a clearly emotional Bergkamp said at the unveiling ceremony before Arsenal’s Premier League match against Sunderland.

The eight-foot (2.4-metre) high statue is based on Bergkamp, nicknamed the non-flying Dutchman by the British media because of his fear of flying, controlling a pass in mid-air during a 2003 match against Newcastle.

“It’ll be nice every time you walk through here to see (the statue) and remind you what a great player he was and the great times we had watching him,” said 55-year-old Arsenal fan David Simpson.

Statues of former Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman, and players Tony Adams and Thierry Henry were unveiled outside the Emirates in 2011.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin; editing by Josh Reich nL3N0LR0A6

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