Arsenal First, Beautiful Football Second, Trophies Third

“I believe the target of anything in life should be to
do it so well that it becomes an art.”

-Arsene Wenger

I was asked to write something on
Arsenal from the perspective of a female Gooner (which I am). In the past when
I tried this, I’ve ended up writing more about feminism than about Arsenal.
Important as that is, it does get tiring, rehashing the same arguments and
stereotypes about women who love football over and over again. This is a break
from that. This is a straight-up opinion from me, a female Gooner, on Arsenal,
the club I love. It might be a bit different from what you were expecting, but
I hope you’ll hear me out.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot
about Arsenal, money, and that odious phrase “trophy drought”. It all
keeps circling back to one question: Why do we love football? I’ve heard a
hundred reasons from fans online and in person, and I can think of a hundred

It’s not just about trophies, we can
agree. Sure, the ultimate objective of competition is to win. But the
incidentals of football – comradeship, sportsmanship, pride; the friends we
make, the community we claim a stake in; #GoonerFamily and Arsenal loyalty;
glorious comebacks and bittersweet losses; the unscripted struggle and the raw
human triumph. All of that is important, too.

Do you ever just stand back and
watch how a footballer runs? The speed, the explosive energy, the balance and
control. The infinite grace of man amidst the infinite chaos of a football game
in full flow. It sounds like such a simple observation, but I watch football
for the footballers who play the game. To see the possibilities of human
achievement, bodies and minds honed in the image of an ideal, turning life into
art, chasing perfection to its lair.

It’s not something exclusive to the
Messis and Ronaldos of this world. There’s art in every player: in a
goalkeeper’s reflexes; a wingback’s speed; a striker’s runs; a midfielder’s

I watch football to see football
triumph. If that means trophies, fantastic. If it means a beautiful game but a
tragic scoreline, well – it’s still football. I wonder if that makes me a
strange person. But Arsenal taught me how beautiful football can be. Arsenal
taught me to admire great technique and to feel frustrated with lackluster
play. To say: “I’m proud of the way the lads fought,” after a match
where they gave it their all and were outclassed or trumped by dumb luck. To
have courage, in the face of defeat.

There’s a logical disconnect in all
of this. Because a supporter should want their club to win all the time, every
time, as often as possible, and in as many ways as possible. And trophies are
one of those possibilities. So what’s with all this waffling of
non-silverware-related things?

As a Gooner, I want trophies for
Arsenal. In that same vein, I want world-class players, money, stability; the
ability to attract the best and brightest, the ability to raise up the best and
brightest; to see them shine in the biggest competitions when comes time; to
smash the competition and celebrate with my fellow fans. We want the best for
Arsenal. And why shouldn’t we?

It sounds a bit like the way a
parent might love a child – always wanting the best, urging them in the most
prestigious, most glorious direction. If you’ve ever had a child, or been one,
you’ll know that golden intentions don’t always translate into golden results.

The metaphor breaks down when you
stretch it. Because a football club isn’t going to go through a rebellious
teenager phase. But a football club can go through spoilt brat phases, careless
with money phases, not planning ahead phases, getting complacent, reaching too
far. Struggling to keep up with the demands of a professional world that
increasingly doesn’t seem to care all that much about the football itself, so
long as broadcasts generate revenue and “brand loyalty” keep the
stands packed week in, week out.

I don’t think that’s good for anyone
involved. Because here’s the question: what kind of football do you want? What
kind of football do you want to watch? To support? To be a part of?

I want the kind of football where I
can support my club without compromising my love of the game. Where a team can
practice good management and play beautifully and win trophies, too. Where it’s
okay to lose, because losing is part of competing. So if a team misses out on
silverware one year, they can always come back the next, and players don’t feel
like they have to leave, because instant gratification is not the only way to
get things done.

I want to watch football that’s
judged and loved for its aesthetics, not just its achievements. Because this is
the Arsenal that resonated with me (young Gooner that I am), and this is the
Arsenal I want to continue to believe in.

June is an
Arsenal and Bundesliga fan from the US. She writes for,
and also keeps her own blog: Autobiography
of a Fan

 June Pan

2 Responses to Arsenal First, Beautiful Football Second, Trophies Third

  1. Kevin Urenda July 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Love the gist of this as well as the underlying sentiment (especially as a fellow American, particularly on this 4th of July). Having been a true Gooner for over twenty years (hard to follow football here in the States before the internet, and before it was on the telly – although I DO remember "Soccer Made in Germany"), the bottom line has ALWAYS been the results. Attractive play from world-class talent, yes, but also grit and determination.
    For me a crunching Vieira (or Winterburn) tackle was often as beautiful as a well-worked goal. The way the game is played has changed, and players have changed, but the game itself is timeless. Really looking forward to this season!

  2. bubliya July 5, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    Really really love this,June! Not a Gooner fan, but this is so relatable on so many levels

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