I could start by explaining how I became an Arsenal fan. But it does not really matter how you come to love the club. All that really matter is that you do.
In the past it was a simple matter, you supported your local club, your hometown team. If you lived in a large city you might get the choice of teams which may include some teams in the top division. But in reality your choice would have been made before you were even born. Your team was your father’s team, as it was his father’s. Generations lived in the same catchment area and supported the same team.
But things have changed dramatically in the Premiership era. There are many contributing factors like mobility of labour, the breakup of local communities. But more so it was the arrival of saturation coverage compliments of Sky, which changed the landscape. All of a sudden it was possible to follow a team from afar. You could watch a team and become attached, without ever seeing a live game; without visiting the area where the team is based; without even visiting the country where they play.
Now the old fans, the local fans, they were born into the club, like being born into a family. They were, and indeed are, stuck with the hand they were dealt, like it or not. Of course this fan was fairly happy no matter what his team achieved, because unless you live within walking distance of say, Anfield, your expectations were fixed around the level your local club had always been in the habit of delivering. Usually, not a lot. This was normal, you went to watch with your mates and just enjoyed the football and the camaraderie.
New fans have chosen their team. Fallen in love with it, sort of married it. But although you may be deeply passionate about your chosen “remote” club, it throws up some previously unknown problems. Likely, most new fans were attracted to their new remote club because it was achieving a high level of success. If the club becomes less successful, then the new fan might feel a sense of disappointment. They likely expected the success to continue and feel a sense of entitlement because they bought into the success. And they want it back. Pronto.
So now they are frustrated. What can they do? It is a bit late to change club, they are fans now, in love, in a committed relationship. They can’t go to the pub and have a moan up, because no one cares about their team, or at least very few do.
OK, here is my point now.
So there I am in Blackburn and I want to talk football but who do I talk too? I don’t know one other person in the area who supports Arsenal. None of my real life friends could care less. All I have is myself. And that is company I have never liked.
So I go on-line.
I start reading some blogs and choose to comment on the ones whose tone most suits my mood and opinions. I start putting the club to rights. Then I came across “A Cultured Left Foot” . Jackpot. A whole load of people who seem to have the same values as me.
Start posting. More posting. Endless posting it must have seemed to many. Then something wonderful happened. People start talking back. Some agreeing, some not so much, but relationships are being formed. Friends are being made and some adversaries too.
But I now have “mates” to banter with. To take the mickey out of ,or be taken the mickey of by. There are people to educate me on the history of the club, there are many who know much more about the game than me to help me understand the dynamics of the team, tactics and formations. And those who are so passionate that I am infected by it, even more than before.
Sadly, the tone on ACLF changed and I no longer fitted in. So along with some of its regulars I started this blog, around about the same time I took to twitter in a big way. The blog.and twitter, gives me what the old type fan always had. A community, friendships and an outlet for frustrations. Indeed, a feeling of involvement that was previously lacking.
So I suppose what I am saying is that in the modern world of remote fans, blogs and other social networking is a very important part of feeling part of something bigger. In our case that is The Arsenal in all its majesty.
P.S. This was an update on an article I wrote some four years ago.
First. Feels like that old blog. George and I have literally travelled the same path, except I am nearly 2,000 miles further. So I took to ACLF long before he did until I no longer felt welcome. But at the core George and I shared the same needs; we chose the club because we identified with its footballing values particularly those brought by Arsene Wenger, who in my opinion is the greatest manager of modern times. I live amongst a population who couldn’t give two hoots about Football, Arsenal or Arsene Wenger. So I found my pub, my “pardners” as we say in these parts, in this blog and mostly the same people on twitter. I don’t give one f*ck about being a new or a local fan, knowing that because of people like George and the PA posse I feel more a part of the club than most of the local whingers and moaners I have come across.
Plus who is not impressed by the figure of our imposing Meekat. From BlackbunGeorge to Pedantic George what an evolution!
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Fascinating post PG .I dont blame you for not supporting Rovers though!Why did you choose the Arsenal?
I am from Wigan Mills. It was all rugby league for me in my younger days.
I didn’t chose AFC, the style and class made me a fan. I loved football and could watch any team without the fear of losing, But I just couldn’t stop myself falling in love with Arsenal. I started watching them with particular interest when Dennis signed. Then when I saw Wengerball, I was hooked.
And thank the Lord you did create this island of good sense, where contributors are valued and respect one another. So in your choice of football team the same ethos that runs through Positively Arsenal.
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I can admit no such remote conversion, it was never conscious, Fate and it became pure habit. Probably at the time I took up the cloak Tottingham were the more exciting side on Norf London, and the capital’s cavaliers were Docherty’s Chelsea, all sideburns, Jensen Interceptors, and Kings Road.
Distance support is not really a new phenomenon. I chose Arsenal while living in Somerset aged 7. My school friends were all Man U, or Liverpool or Chelsea. Even a few Spuds.
We all had a hankering for the nearest league team too, either the blue or red half of Bristol in our case. Some became full time Rovers fans (or Shitheads – sad fools) and their interest in the ‘big’ first division teams faded. Others like me enjoyed watching one and following the other through the papers, radio and tv.
The internet has made me much more partisan. I used to watch matches at the pub with a bunch of mates all of whom supported different teams. I was surrounded by United fans when Arsene won his first double but we didn’t fall out. Nowadays I wouldn’t watch anyone but Arsenal unless I was really bored and I would never, ever, in a million years watch a match with other people who didn’t not only support Arsenal but support them in the same way I do.
So the blogs and the social media have brought me into contact with a couple of really decent human beings and my life is the better for knowing them but it has turned me from an outgoing social fan to a closed minded, fanatical zealot with no patience for any but a very few who see it my way.
It’s a double edged sword.
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Sorry PG my mistake and presumption that you were from Blackburn. All apologies.
Was never part of the ACLF world so everyone’s history is unknown to me and what sort of friendships you all had.
The internet is great though that all AFC fans from wherever can get together.Our fan base is massive now.
Well Stew, there is that !
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well I would have once considered myself a long distance Gooners, being from rural Ireland, but as we all know the world has shrunk, so although a non uk resident I would not go as far as to say I’m a long distant fan, but back when I started supporting the Arsenal there was barely a live game, the League Cup final, the FA Cup final, the european Cup finals, and there was Match of the Day on BBC and The Big Match on ITV (UTV for me),
something I must mention, The Big Match was on UTV, and like with BBC, I was only able to watch these channels cos I lived close enough to the border to pick up their transmission in the North.
and two of these things I would suspect is the reason I support Arsenal,
they are The Big Match and the League Cup Final, you see it was in 1968 that I first became aware of The Arsenal, yeah being a young kid, Arse was funny, then they had a big Gun on their kit, and Guns were fun to a lad who loved his westerns, Arsenal lost that league cup final in 68, and there was something in me, that felt the pain of this defeat, they were to be my team, and then again we lost the final in 69, I was close to being hooked,
and that brings me to the Big Match, you see as a child BBC’s Match of the Day was on late of a Saturday night(as it still is), and the Irish on here will tell you that this meant a clash with The Late Late Show on RTE and in the late 60’s, early 70’s and beyond, there was only one winner, especially when it came to one TV households, and sadly “Soccer” was not a game we should even be watching, so Gay Byrne had his audience, whether we liked it or not(a big not in my case), so that left The Big Match, and that was on Sunday Lunchtime, nothing on RTE to rival it, and as some of you might know The Big Match was a London Weekend End TV show, just why UTV showed it I do not know, but I am forever grateful that they did.
Brian Moore was the host, and he always had a little twinkle in his eye when it came to The Arsenal, so that nudged them towards me even more, and of course by time 71 came round Arsenal were the London team LWT was showing highlights off on a regular basis, and Arsenal were winning on a regular basis too (many guys of my generation in my region had the misfortune to choose Chelsea as their club, LWT The Big Match, has to be the reason too, as CFC were doing well some of the time, I also know lads who got hooked on CFC in the late 70’s when they were fighting for promotion and The Big Match would show them).
I was from a big GAA background, and there was a thing called The Ban(rule 27) and although the rule was lifted in 71, it had left its effects
Rule 27 read “any member of the association who plays or encourages in any way rugby, football, hockey or any imported game which is calculated or injuriously affect our national pastimes, is suspended from the association.”
A President of Ireland was expelled from the GAA for attending an Ireland international soccer game.
its said Liam Brady was expelled from school for playing soccer for Ireland at youth level
As I said the rule was done away with in 71 but it was still in the GAA psyche, I remember myself and GAA team mates being put off our local GAA pitch cos after GAA training we had a soccer kick about. So me being from a GAA family, I had no adult family members at all interested in Soccer, so there was no way I was ever going to be brought to my “local” soccer club, by the way the nearest “local” club was not in my county, nor in any of its neighboring counties, it was a couple of hours to Athlone Town(I think they had a club), same over to Sligo to see Rovers, same to Drogheda or Dundalk, and again the same to Dublin where nearly all the League of Ireland Clubs were and still are. So my “local” club was in reality further away than London based Arsenal, who at least I could see on a regular basis on TV (if only highlights)
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Ozil’s message to Arsenal fans
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I have spotted a niche in the protest market – what about a #Wexit campaign ?
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A very familiar journey…no not need to write much more…
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There’s a sign above the door to the Arsenal says:
“Choose your weapons carefully”
Steww, to be fair a double edged sword would be more useful in a melee. I imagine.
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The Ban rule, so that’s what Rugger old Riley calls his pgMOB Rules Football code variant. It all begins to make sense.
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Even the late great Umberto Eco had to observe that social media:
“give the right of expression to legions of imbeciles which beforehand only talked in the bar after a glass of wine, without disturbing their social environment. Now they have the same right of expression of a Nobel Prize. It’s the invasion of the imbeciles.”
Many of us on PA came to the same conclusion, definitely not as eloquently, after our many diverse experiences on twitter and other blogs.
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Interesting article. Like you, am also a long distance gunner, having been born in Uganda, now living in the US of A. My journey was different though, I started out as a united fan because my elder brother was a united fan (still is), then Paulo Di Canio happened. Man utd lost 1-0 to a Di Canio goal ( I think it was West Ham, i dont recall the year – but around 97 – 98) that got me so upset, then my cousin ( Arsenal fan) suggested Arsenal to me and I have not looked back ever since. That was 1999 -2000 time. I watched most games at a local bar that my parents owned and was a reknown “Mr. Arsenal” by the local guys until I left for the US in 2011 where I then had to resort to blogs and twitter as I didnt know anyone with whom to watch and discuss games with (apart from my elder brother whose football knowledge is FIFA). I used to read blogs like Le Grove, justArsenal and the like and was ultimately forced to flee them as their content lacked any form of credibility and logic, then I discovered this blog on Arsenalnews and along with Untold, have been my go to places for quite a while now much as I very rarely post comments; though I enjoy reading the comments from the more regular posters.
As an overseas fan, I only started supporting Arsenal because of our name (no boring City names, which meant nothing to me anyway) , and the white sleeves which were distinctive. All I knew about football was that Manchester United were the greatest team (Thanks Rupert Murdoch) and Ronaldo was the greatest footballer. This was in 97. Prior to this, Euro 96 was my first introduction to football.
When I first saw the name Arsenal (in a video game!) I was intrigued and decided they would be my team (I almost picked Everton) Then I realised we had Dennis Bergkamp and his and Arsenal’s brand of football just hooked me. Games were only occasionally available, news coverage was totally absent, and the whole joy of discovery, bit by bit -whether it be about the players or the history of the club, I think that is something which really cemented my love. More than the trophies. I’d have picked ManU if I wanted that. I liked that we played good football, were honourable (the replayed FA Cup tie), and still won, rather than it being a win at all costs mentality and hype driven machine. A brandwagon as I called it.
The joy of slow discovery, piecing together little bits of information, guessing at filling in the blanks etc. I think we’ve lost that, and we’ve decided that information equals knowledge. That is the drawback of the internet age. That and the necessity of an immediate response. However, it does help you find like minded people, and forge friendships you would never have otherwise. So there’s that.
I’m a lot less active on blogs recently and I think it’s because the obsession with us winning the league title and of course, talk of how and why we messed it up, has been taking away my joy of the game. That joy which referees like Lee Mason and Mike Dean haven’t already taken away that is.
I’m trying to come close to watching like I used to in the early 2000s. Watch the game, hope we win, feel bad if we lose, and move on. We’ll end up where we end up. But watching Arsenal is its own reward.
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Bravo, George bravo!
This is a beautiful thread.
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Good post ,George, and some really enjoyable comments. Can really relate to those last two paragraphs from Shard.
I actually do recognise some extra rights (not what I mean, but I can’t think of a better wording) for the fan in the stadium, but it’s mostly notionally so (I don’t know their individual circumstances) and it disappears entirely should they be a twat.
Partly, my respect for fans in the stadium comes from their paying good money, which the club needs, to attend; partly, it’s because the stadium goers have a huge role in creating atmosphere and helping the team. I rely on them.
Lastly, it’s related to the shock I used to get when I ,infrequently, attended any matches (not Arsenal) : wow, this is different, rawer, or just very very different, in a number of ways, than the television experience. The main point, however, is that, without getting a sense of the specifics of any individual supporter, it can’t be more than notional. They are all Schrodinger’s twats (and non-twats) to me until I know more.
Conversely, I think you can be a wonderful supporter, as good and as passionate as any, from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
If someone could hurry up and invent that machine to measure love*, which we’d all buy, things would be clearer; until then we’ll muddle along, lucky where we’re clear enough (supposing we’re right and not an idiot!) in our minds.
* I’d scan them all before entering the stadium plus a quick swipe with the decency machine.