A United supporter, an Arsenal supporter and a die-hard cricket fan once went to a bar. Sounds like the start of a joke. This is however the story of the first time I questioned what it is to be football fan.
I am an Arsenal fan. Have been one since the first time I watched Bergkamp, Pires and Henry create magic on the field. I was a child when I fell in love with the game and with Arsenal. We’ve had some turbulent years but that has never swayed my support and I have grown up with the club. My United friend would probably tell you the same.
We were discussing the upcoming weekend matches. If memory serves correct that weekend saw Arsenal draw with Everton with Gerard Deulofeu coming up with a late equalizer. I have this habit as do most football fans of referring to their teams in the first person, so when I talk about Arsenal I talk about the decisions “we” have taken or how “we” need to do something differently.
The three of us were discussing tactics and strategy and whether Mesut Ozil is truly a world class player (definitely is in my opinion), when our Cricket friend asked me why do you talk about Arsenal as you are part of it? How do you support a club with which you have no geographical roots, no national identity?
I don’t know what it is about football which inspires such loyalty. The Arsenal of today is very different from the one I fell in love with. And this is when we have had the same Manager through all these years. Most clubs have had more managerial changes in this much time than one would care to keep track of.
What I do know however, is that watching Arsenal for me is pure bliss. When the Red and White shirts are on the field it is almost like I am living each moment as if I am one of them. So when we scored the winning FA cup goal I did my own celebration along with Aaron Ramsey and when we could not make it to the top four I felt the anguish of Wenger as if I had been dealt a personal blow.
I have seen children look grave like you wouldn’t imagine. I have seen men older than my grandfather jump around like children. And all of this because eleven players on the field make them feel emotions one can’t really describe. I couldn’t tell you why we support clubs like we do, you wouldn’t believe me. But I wish I could take my friend to the Emirates and then perhaps I wouldn’t need to.
I wish Arsenal win the Premier League next year and the Champions League after that. I wish we sign the best players in the world and have a manager after Wenger who builds another Invincibles. But it doesn’t matter if we don’t. If we get relegated next year I will still search for a stream which shows League Two matches. Because when you support a club you support a club – through the good, the bad and the worst.