From Highbury To Harare – Why Arsenal Are The World’s Favourite Local Club

Below a post by our very own ZimPaul that I think brilliantly describes the way fans from outside London have different reasons for starting – and continuing – to support Arsenal.  It’s better than anything I could write; simply because people never had, or never will have, the opportunity to attend games does not mean they love the club any less than those who do.

Anyway, here it is.  George.

I am certain people support a club because of its culture/identity or location/community.

The second has been less ambiguous in history, built around community and family traditions but is torn asunder by a fast-changing “sense of belonging” that is being rapidly deconstructed by the impact of the digital/TV brave new world and corporate power (Shotta’s excellent insights into the Manchester United issues being a good example of the contradictions and tensions arising). Both are obviously and essentially collective, not individualistic, formulations (although our minds tell us the latter, it is usually not, we are “part of”). The first is more interesting for me for many reasons, I am not London born, linked, based nor does it reflect, for me, much sense of community except in its diversity that includes many Africans, but that is all pretty tenuous.

Why do 2 million Africans support Arsenal? It’s a good question. Why do I see Arsenal shirts every single day in Harare? (pirated, not sold under license). There are few if any commercial links driving a support base (as in Asian and American markets for club knick-knacks and other revenue fueled by modern day football branding).  There are no obvious short term advantages to supporting Arsenal (as with ManU and Chelsea support, and latterly City), that is the likelihood of perennial entitlement, good fortune and dripping, drooling media coverage which also reaches our distant foggy ears.

In my personal experience, most Africans Arsenal fans support Arsenal for FOOTBALL. The underlying assumption is Arsenal play football, have done, always do, will continue to do, all things being equal, and nobody and nothing can take that away.  95% or more of African support came with the Wenger era, with Kanu, with Henry, with Bergkamp. When an African says Arsenal “play football” it means “the dream of what football is supposed to be, and can be, ah, the beautiful artistry and spontaneity of life, the memories, the fun, the laughter, the inspiration, the skill and possibility of it all”. So, it’s about cultural identity. When Arsenal fail to achieve these lofty intangible (cultural) aspirations, fans are deeply critical, often technically specific about it but it is “about” the dream. Our sense of entitlement is not trophy-based, although we wouldn’t mind a few because we are the best team and our time will come, we know. We are patient.

If Arsenal “became” a Chelsea, generally regarded as spoilt brat team in these parts, 50% of the African support would whither in a year or two, 75% in five years. They have so little sense of culture or cultural identity. They don’t make us smile at all.

What Arsenal under Wenger has built will last a very, very long time, like the stadium, if Arsenal keep their side of the social contract with its fans, that this emerging culture of how football is played remains the Arsenal-way. Play football and all the abundance in the world keeps flowing like a river; play celebrity football, Stoke kick-person, tap-in ball, head-ball, buy-a-trophy ball, shit-ball, or any other kind of game, and the game is over.

It’s about Tomas receiving so fast in the middle after an excellent interception (probably Ramsey), wonderful counter attack, turning, beating, acceleration, three steps, feint that way by Giroud, and then the most extraordinarily weighted outside-footed through-ball that Theo, starting far behind his marker, takes perfectly at a fantastic gallop running 25 metres, he turns slightly inside, the angle opens, desperate lunge by the defender, keeper bristling, arms akimbo, ready to spring, 25 metre diagonal front foot shot, low, hard, on the ground, far post, keeper’s fingers caress the ball, slightest deflection, not enough, inside the far post, by an inch, Theo flying now, arms outstretched, Tomas has that smile, and way over on left corner flag the team drown Theo in team happiness. Back in a music bar in Harare a week later Ish walks past and says “Man, did you see that pass”. And without even knowing which game, I know he means “that pass.”



And  here is something that Finsbury said that is worth a special mention:
“‘Loves Arsene, hates Arsenal. Is such a transparent bullshit meme, and worthy of those who repeat it. Some of us have been discussing people being priced out of football for years now, there are records of those threads. I suppose we are fake fans too?

 So, we know people are losing interest in the game. We know people are going to watch football in Germany, or down the leagues. Is George wrong to consider such things happening in the game in our time?”

Right, I am off back to Twitter to be called a Jonny-Come-Lately and a Plastic.


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80 comments on “From Highbury To Harare – Why Arsenal Are The World’s Favourite Local Club

  1. It’s Sanogo time again folks!
    British Eurosport, on now U20 World Cup semifinal.
    a repeat from earlier in the day. Don’t tell me the results!


  2. DC, goonerkam, anicoll & G69..I think McCarthy can develop into a very very good CM.
    I can’t help coveting him….as close to a Scholes as there is out there bar Jack.
    T’would suck if the Red mancs or the Spuds gank the lad.

    for me Djourou’s time was up last season.
    I will NOT be happy at all if we sell LeCoq.
    His potential is immense. Such a flexible player.

    Once I saw the price tag on Fernandinho
    I’ve pinned my DM hopes on Wanyama or Capoue
    Quality that doubles as CM allows Ignasi to get some time

    What’ll happen to the Frimp?
    Eisfeld’s still a season away from readiness
    Grenier’s the perfect “new Rosicky”

    Ok, ok..I’ll get back in my spaceship.


  3. Amen
    I’d love McCarthy to join us, bud sadly I think it’s unlikely.
    Perhaps if he was called Jacques le Carti , maybe Wenger would be more interested.


  4. Suarez is a cheating, racist scumbag and I would rather he is not associated with my club.

    Grenier always struck me as someone using ‘alleged’ Arsenal interest to squeeze a better contract out of his existing employers


  5. “I’d love McCarthy to join us, bud sadly I think it’s unlikely.”

    Why not, wasn’t there a rumour in January that we were looking at him?


  6. …”using ‘alleged’ Arsenal interest to squeeze a better contract out of his existing employers” eh, Passenal?

    won’t be the first player to do so sadly.
    In the only 2 games I’ve watched him play, Grenier’s been really impressive.

    Yes..there was a rumour.
    Wouldn’t mind it coming to pass.

    Higuain or Benteke, Pass?


  7. congrats to Sanogo…hope they come away with the cup.
    Thauvin’s the man though.


  8. Passenal
    McCarthy is a very good player, but I don’t see Arsene Wenger maying a buy for him… unless other midfield options don’t materialise this summer.
    I don’t think Arsene rates Irish players very highly, look at the academy clear outs.
    And what would we do with Frimmy, Coq and the Iceman?


  9. It just dawned on me why we seem interested in Suarez…
    to show Real Madrid we mean business, raise the stakes & force their ego into overpaying for el biter. This would force them into selling Higuain asap to the only club that really wants him (& the one he wants to go to) to make up the difference.
    Got to give it to IG & AW on this one.

    dc..I just don’t want to see the lad in red manc or spud white. Wouldn’t mind him @ Villa.


  10. No one about?

    Arguing about the square root of f*ck all again at my other t’internet haunt.

    Good old ‘Coll. Patience of a saint sometimes.


  11. Very quiet day Swiss Harry – Australia 117-9 I am cavorting around, taunting the buggers to grovel on their knees

    (shakes head)


  12. Harry,did you give Dukey my regards?


  13. No I didn’t George, I wasn’t on there yesterday, or much of today. Had forgotten though, memory of a goldfish. Especially in this weather. I shall pass it on now……


  14. Adam Brogden
    July 10, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Thanks Adam.
    UEFA definitely do some good stuff.
    I think the FA entered a slow disintegration after the Wembley fiasco (current cost £1bn and rising…?), and now their hands are tied.. Although I have no doubt that many involved on the project burst out laughing every time that they think of it.
    Most coaches I’ve spoken to or know think that the FA is completely useless and so far out of touch the the prospect of some kind of connection in the future seems very distant. The way the FA were shown in Mike Basset England Manager film seems to match those descriptions.

    So, thank the football gawds for AFC and AW then.

    FUFA? No comment.
    I have just learnt, courtesy of Master Boycott and Plundit Aggers that the ICC (Cricket equivalent of FUFA) managed to get the TV companies to pay for all the Hawkeye and replay gubbins that they’ve been using for almost fifteen odd years (hawkeye and other stuff came later). That is a situation that may change in the future, but a fascinating revelation nonetheless.

    Yup. No comment. Nothing I can add to that!


  15. TGSTEL,
    It’s like trying to kill a vampire.

    Well if we are stuck with him, lets get some game time out of him. He has had a few golden moments for us.

    You never know, it might reawaken a desire to be a footballer in him.


  16. @ Finsbury, your welcome.

    Although I have no doubt that many involved on the project burst out laughing every time that they think of it.

    Yes I was one of many mechanical fitters on that site and we milked it.

    Deadline? What deadline? Pay me more overtime. Sorry but that is how it was. Most of us agreed to work slow until the shit hit the suits. CHAOS = CASH.

    What some people don’t know about the Wembley project is that the stadium was phase 1 of 5 in the redevelopment of the area. Has anything else happened around there since Im not sure? Multiplex were a complete joke and only seemed interested in keeping us mouthy gits away from the journalists.

    In some ways im proud to say I worked on the project, but what good is a national stadium when the sport is in the shit?


  17. Adam,
    It just shows how well AFC handled our stadium move comparison.
    Despite a global financial melt down, and a property price collapse.

    How the f*ck do the spuds reckon on building a similar size stadium for half the price? Copy our plans, they’ve done that.


  18. DC, the weird thing about the two projects is that the company I was subbing off was on both sites and I actually turned down the Ems due to earning potential at the national stadium.

    There was definitely a different method at work between the two projects.

    Im not a Tottenham hater so I wish them luck in building half a stadium then knocking a stadium down to finish the other half???????????

    Really will be the tiny totts for a season.


  19. Adam you should be proud
    There are some positives with Wembley. For me it’s the FA’s project, those problems reflect on the FA.
    Conversely even if I wanted to be critical of the Highbury move or the new stadium with Arsenal, or the housing projects, I have to give some credit to the team that managed to build a stadium without such exaggerated cost. Even though I was not a fan of some or most of them. .


  20. The cricket is exciting. And that’s just from listening to the radio.

    Imagine if you had to listen to the equivalent of the Cricket equivalent of Robbie Savage (that’d be Ronnie Irani then) talk about such amazing stuff, as opposed to say, The original rebel Tufnell (as far the ECB were concerened Phil Tufnell was a no good ragamuffin) or Michael Holding…etc.

    George. Can you rescue my comment that I lost in Troll Hell earlier on?
    If not, it said much the same as DC @ 11.10pm. And that Adam should be proud of his work. The FA’s shenanigans at Wembley only reflect upon the FA.


  21. I see our Swiss Harry and Anicoll are engaging with an unreconstructed idiot over there on ACLF. The same old guff being debated all on the basis of unsubstantiated opinion. They do a great job and I admire their patience…….


  22. Interesting piece from the FT today on our trip to Indonesia and the financial momentum driving PL clubs East;


  23. @geogaki. They really are brilliant over there as well as Miami. Love it!


  24. Thanks George.

    In the spirit if fairness I was not impressed when the board paid some PR fiend to convince them that rebranding the club crest into a bland splotch was a good idea. The designers who got the brief were not happy. If there were copyright issues, I have no doubt which logo is easier to produce, and copy. I want my crest back.

    PR Gimp: “This new logo is what people want. Think McDonald’s. Trust me we’ve had, shit, scientists and shit check this shit out. We believe that people see bland images better then detailed images. it’ll be big in Asia. they don’t value tradition. And of course it takes a lot of work to take out all that detail. Here is our fee.”

    It’s no so bad. They can always change the crest. There was that thing with the leaves. That which was done can be undone.

    They didn’t arse up the important bit (The New Home of Football).


  25. Despite the financial imperative to go there, especially for a club not subsidised by a sugar daddy, it must be quite heart warming for the manager and players to actually be shown such love
    “The locals are delighted to host Arsenal for the first time in 30 years, and couldn’t wait to explain their happiness to Arsène et al. It was a far cry from the line of questioning the boss is used to during meetings with the press back home.” (Arsenal.com)
    Hopefully this feeling will carry over into the new season. Might be nice if some of the in stadium support could channel a little of that positive energy!


  26. Hi All. Thanks for comments. I hadn’t realized I wrote a piece for Posa, but there you are, miracles, thanks P George. Here in Zim we are embroiled in election fever, the worst kind of fever, worse than dengue fever, I don’t get time to peruse Posa as often.


  27. Hi All. Thanks for comments. I hadn’t realized I wrote a piece for Posa, but there you are, miracles, thanks P George. Here in Zim we are embroiled in election fever, the worst kind of fever, worse than dengue fever, I don’t get time to peruse Posa as often.


  28. Good news, true Arsenal fans!
    Le Boss is planning to stay for a long time.(as if we ever doubted he was going to leave).

    I’m off to read the grove and laugh my socks off at their reaction.


  29. Well that was painful. So many vile spanners in one place.
    I blame the English Education System.

    Now I know why Tesco have pictures of the shelves full to help the shelf stackers.


  30. first friendlies being played, u21s winning with new signings appearing and doing well, thousands of Asian fans going mad for the ARSENAL our Christmas is coming…. oh yeah!


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