Ooh to! Ooh to be!
I just got back from London a few days ago and simply put, it was amazing. I went to 4 matches at the Emirates while in town and experienced a little bit of everything. There was the 0-0 with ManU, the 2-1 revenge win against Liverpool, the 1st Bayern leg (not gonna talk about that) and a final 4-1 drubbing of Sunderland. No matter the result, I noticed 1 constant during all of these matches (as well as my entire trip). I saw that being an Arsenal fan is something else entirely. It’s not just being a casual fan like other clubs’ supporters, it’s a deeply rooted love affair with the best club in the world and that love extends to people in even the strangest of places. This relationship goes both ways though, we as fans must show our support and be there in both the good and bad.
On the way to London via Bruges then Brussels for the ManU match I ran into multiple Gooners (and Goonerettes). My first train of the day I ran into a couple of Arsenal season ticket holders headed back to England and we proceeded to talk about the team the entire journey to Brussels. They (as well as the Belgian guy across from us who’s dad was an Anderlecht hooligan and saw Arsenal when they played in Brussels in the 70’s) found it amazing that someone would come from America to watch this team from North London and when I mentioned we had an Arsenal pub that carried every match in the middle of little ol’ Oklahoma they were further astonished. One of the people that checked my passport was also a season ticket holder who was taking a late train from Brussels to get to the match. On top of that, one of the security guys was a fan as well and gave a thumbs-up and asked my thoughts on the match as I went through. While waiting in the lobby for the train, we were joined by 2 more Arsenal fans who noticed my Thierry Henry kit. One was from China but lived in London and the other was from eastern Belgium. They were heading to London for the match and we proceeded to discuss that night’s game, whether Arsene should stay or not (I say Yes), and the moves we need to make to improve further while waiting on the train. It is incredible to me that strangers from all over the globe would be drawn together and talk for hours as if they were lifelong pals because of a football club.
So I finally make it to London, specifically the ground zero of this relationship we all share, THE EMIRATES. The atmosphere at the ManU match was one of great anticipation as it seemed like a match we could win, possibly even rather handily, but as you know, the match ended in a nil-nil draw. It all seemed rather ho-hum and it culminated with some fans (a rather large number) booing the team off the pitch. Aside from the RvP hate (this was constant and quite enjoyable for me); this seemed to be the most vocal most of these fans were the entire match which was quite sad and disappointing to me. I get voicing displeasure and it sure would have been nice to win, but it’s not like United are a bunch of scrubs without talent. The negativity is the worst as it doesn’t help anything and truly only hurts everyone involved. You’re either with the team or not and you don’t just get to be there for the good times. It might have been somewhat due to being on a Wednesday but after the match everyone kind of wandered home pretty quickly it seemed.
The next match was the Liverpool FA Cup tie and the Emirates was rocking. Away fans and home fans both were singing and yelling back and forth in support of their teams. They would get loud, we would get louder. I was in the clock end right above the away supporters for this match and it was great to be able to see the interaction of the fans (including some Liverpool smoke bombs) and the entire match. You could tell that the players drew great inspiration from the atmosphere and were very lively. Now I don’t think the performance was all the fans doing by any means, but there was a marked difference in energy and it showed with the way we attacked Liverpool the entire game. To me it showed just how we fans should remain positive and continue to back this squad. No amount of whining and complaining will get us new players or gain us any points in the standings (or magically heal Diaby) so we might as well roll with the players we have because we’re pretty damn good as it is.
Everyone hung around the stadium area after the match this time and the place was buzzing with excitement. I went to The Eaglet after with my new pal Chris from LA and met a few legends (Gary, Tash and Alfie) who set us up in the perfect spot to meet some of the players on their way home. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning while having a pint on the side of the street and anxiously waiting for a fancy car to stop in front of the pub. You could tell the players were still pumped from the result and they didn’t mind stopping and holding up traffic at all especially when we told them we were from the states, which they seemed to find quite amazing.
The difference between these 2 matches was night and day. Both the team and the fans were markedly different and so much better the second match. I urge us all as Gooners to get behind this team even when not at the Emirates and enjoy this season as there’s only a handful of matches left and the double is still on J. It truly was incredible and I highly recommend visiting as often as possible for all Gooners young and old, especially if you haven’t yet. I’m already itching for a return.
P.S. - The final match I went to was Sunderland, the day of the Dennis Bergkamp statue unveiling. I attended the pre-match activities and it was amazing how many people were there. There must have been 3 - 4,000 who were all chanting and singing as Dennis came out. I don’t think he or the club had any idea how big this would be as the club only had a couple small speakers and you couldn’t hear a thing during the entire presentation. Dennis himself was incredibly moved and emotional and it was awesome seeing him soak in the moment as the fans serenaded him like we were all back at Highbury. You could tell he was still in love with the club just like all of us.
Ooh to be a – Gooner!!
The SG Blog
Gooners from Oklahoma share their views and insights about Arsenal Football Club!