You live abroad, supporting your team based on some individual event rather than inheriting your grandfather’s or great-grandfather’s team. One singular unifying event has drawn in your support and not just watching the occasional game on the telly.
You participate in forums, argue with people you’ve never met and even call them names that you are immediately embarrassed about after your team wins and everyone is happy and chummy.
You write blogs like this or comment on it. You post rumours on twitter, retweet brilliance and stupidity, your email signature boast things like, “Everyone thinks he’s (van Nistlerooy) a nice guy, but really he’s a son of a bitch. – Patrick Vieira.” Your display photo is of Henry sliding on his knees in front of Tottenham fans, or Bergkamp with a hand over his mouth, or Ian Wright’s ‘179 just did it,’ or Tony Adams arms raised in ’98, maybe it’s Pires in full sprint after curling a beauty in against Liverpool at Anfield, or the iconic Martin Keown screaming full bore in van Nistlerooy’s ear.
But, you are still a boy living abroad, segregated from your team.
Years pass, you read more, watch more, complain more, discuss more; everything is done nearly to excess. Something is still missing.
Now you’ve joined your local supporters club, you were on the forum before, but never felt the desire to join. You want to support the club, but most of all you’ve saved up some money. A little from every paycheque goes into a little place devoted to Arsenal. A trip, you are going to see Arsenal!
You email the head of the supporters club and see that the ticket windows for the matches is not yet open, and you are told to sit patiently until information is posted online. You do not quite understand, but you are too anxious about Arsenal to give a darn.
The ticket window is open, it is posted on the forum, eight matches to choose from. What do you want? You have West Ham at home, Spurs, Newcastle, Fulham, even some Champions League options, what to choose?
You know you want to see a win, but you feel that Arsenal should win all of their home matches, they are your Arsenal after all. You want to see goals, you want to see that new signing bag a brace, kiss the badge and the Emirates to be going absolutely ape shit. You pick West Ham, it’s a London derby, but dominated recently by the Gunners. You expect goals because it’s Arsenal and West Ham just do not make the mark. You pick a Saturday where TV coverage has been assigned so you know that the match will not be rearranged further. So you’re locked in, now you wait until the supporters club confirms that you have tickets to the match.
Two weeks later, good news, you’re going. You let out a scream at work when you see the email. Your flight is quickly booked, damn the cost, but you feel that the website you used helped you get a fair deal. Again you wait, this time several weeks until you board your flight. Your family calls you crazy for spending that much money to essentially see your team play once, “A trip to England to see one match, are you daft?” your father asks rhetorically. Your mother chimes in, “Your father thinks this is a poor way to spend your savings.” Thanks for the translation… but who gives a rat’s ass, you get to see Arsenal!
You fly over, your TV doesn’t work, the food is straight out of prison, and the man beside you has fallen asleep and stolen the shared armrest. You cannot sleep, because of the Arsenal. You bought some footy magazines in the terminal, downloaded some podcasts, and you’re planning out the starting XI you want to see crush the Hammers.
At the ground you follow the advice of the supporters club. Arrive at Arsenal tube stop and walk past Highbury, visit the shops and vendors, hit up the pub, buy a new kit at the armoury to commemorate the visit, check out all of the history around the Emirates. Ok, people are entering the ground, you’re too excited to wait. You push against the people in front of you as if you are going to miss kick-off, which is in an hour. A steward gives you a look as if you are an annoyance, rather than just a rookie, inexperienced like the first time you bed a woman.
Once inside the ground you start snapping photos as if a photo of the concourse will ever make the photo album that sits on your coffee table or goes on to facebook. You made it, you’re here. And Arsenal win.
You are no longer segregated from your team. You were there, a part of a match, singing songs you learned on paper when your peers learned them as bedtime stories. Your voice echoed around the ground just like Springsteen and Coldplay. You are no longer a boy, you are now a man. Welcome to the Arsenal.
Arsenal Canada Chairperson