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Why Arsene @ Arsenal

Why Arsene @ Arsenal

Aditya Tummala

A Perspective from a relatively new football and Arsenal Supporter

Firstly, let me start by stating that this is the first time I have written an article of any sort, so please excuse any mistakes and the amateur nature of this piece.

I wanted to start of by stating what prompted me to attempt writing this piece.

I hail from the city of Hyderabad, in the southern part of India and have been following football from around 2003 and have been a die-hard Arsenal supporter ever since. I am not sure how many of you are aware of this, but India is the land of cricket, it’s considered more than just a game and the players are almost worshipped. The exposure to the most popular game in the world (and I mean Football of course 😉 ) was limited to the world-cups at most. Sure there were a few football fans, but all they ever spoke about was Man Utd or Liverpool, and the first game that I remember seeing involved Man Utd and I naturally supported them.

It was then that on one weekend with nothing to do on a Saturday night that I switched to ESPN (they cover the EPL back home along with Star) that I saw this team called Arsenal for the first time. (Okay let me be honest, the reason I started watching that particular game was because I liked the name J). I think it took me all of 5 minutes before I was hooked!!! What I was watching was fantastic. I had seen a few internationals and a couple of Man Utd games until then, but this to me was almost unreal. I finally understood the meaning of the phrase, “The Beautiful Game”. From then on I tried to catch every game that I could, involving Arsenal (the reason I say tried, is because not every game was shown). It is a love affair that has continued and still grows stronger every year. I watched as many games as I could during “The Invincibles” season and remember watching the penalty shoot-out against Man Utd in the 2005 FA cup final. Those were some real good times.

Now, moving onto the real reason for me wanting to write this article. What has changed in all these years, and I don’t mean on the field. Back when I started watching and following Arsenal, it was impossible to even get an Arsenal Jersey. I was lucky enough to find one in a Nike store back then that was closing down and it was actually a home jersey that was at least 2 seasons old. I still remember the last season at Highbury, someone gifted me the home kit (u guys know, the one we had used for that season only) and I was ecstatic. Next season came the Emirates, EPL was actually gaining some popularity, stores started carrying the kits from different teams and people started watching it over the weekend.

Before I go any further, I want to talk about the buying power of the sports lovers in India. IT IS HUGE!!! The country is a consumer rich environment (well there are more than a billion of us!!) and the BCCI (which is the Indian Cricket Board) is actually the richest cricket board in the world. The potential was huge and what was left was for the people to choose their teams and start supporting. This is where Arsene comes in.

Believe me a lot of people who sat down to watch football with me for the first time could not get their head around the fact that two teams could play a game for 90 minutes and there is chance that neither scores a single goal!! (Yes, these are the same people who can sit for 5 days and watch a test match, nothing against it, I love test cricket myself). But you get my drift, to get these people onto the game, it required more than what a lot of English clubs could offer (including the best). Arsene provided this magic. What he brought to the game, was pure class, finesse, eloquence (I would have loved to use the word poetry but well its been done before), and a true fairy tale in the sense that, all around there were super rich guys splurging cash, buying players for ridiculous prices, tantrums from owners, coaches and players alike, while we went on, heads down and hard at work.

A lot of people now ask me, did you guys really need the Emirates if it meant that you don’t have the money now to compete, and my answer to them is a big yes. Arsene Wenger has created one of the most attractive football teams on the planet and the Emirates has given him the perfect platform to showcase it. (Of course I don’t just mean the stadium itself, it is everything associated with it, the marketing, the brand etc). Its heartwarming to now see a lot of people watching the game, you go out during the weekend and you get to see some young people sporting Arsenal Jerseys supporting their football club at different sports bars. According to me Arsene Wenger is probably one of the biggest brand ambassadors of the game of football itself. He has made Arsenal a true global brand. I was at the Bukit Jalil stadium (KL, Malaysia) when they were here for the recent pre-season and you just had to be there to understand this. The fans were competing on who would be loudest, was it Arsenal Malaysia, Arsenal Singapore, Arsenal Indonesia etc (I now work in Singapore so I was with the Arsenal Singapore contingent). It was a beautiful spectacle.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the local pub watching the Blackburn game, when this gentleman who was visiting from England asked me, “Why Arsenal?”. A million things came to mind, but I was stumped. After almost 8 years of supporting my club, I could not articulate a response to a simple question “Why Arsenal?”!!! I finally said “No Clue, but I love them” and surprisingly he said, “Right Answer, You don’t choose your football club, your football club chooses you”. After having a good laugh at his response (well, initially it sounded like something Yoda from Star Wars would have said) I got thinking, in essence that was what happened to me. I started off watching football thinking I would support Man Utd, but now am a die-hard Arsenal fan. A lot of credit for this goes to Arsene; he has created a brand that is easy to market, not just to football fans, but also to those who are new to the game itself. A clear indication is the growing popularity of Arsenal, a once unknown brand. His master class is evident in all areas of the club now, from the training facilities to the youth program to the wonderful Emirates stadium.

In conclusion I would like to state that, in my humble opinion, Arsene Wenger is most definitely the right person for the job. Its actually amazes me today that people question his abilities, it saddens me to see that managers, players and even fans of other football clubs see what this man has brought to our club and some of us fail to. The only thing that I wish was different about Arsene Wenger is his age, if only he was a decade younger, he could be caching us for that much longer.

*Note – I know a lot of people will say there are teams like Barcelona who also play attractive football and win trophies and would be a bigger attraction. The reality is, La Liga is not as popular and not marketed as much as EPL. So, given the options that the viewers have, Arsene Wenger’s product is definitely the most attractive. In this article I am trying to bring out the value that one man has added globally to our Football club and the game as a whole.

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21 comments to Why Arsene @ Arsenal

  • Chowdhury

    Thank you for the excellent post. Every once in a while we all need to be reminded of the gift that was bestowed upon.
    “You don’t choose your football club, your football club chooses you” — hear hear.
    Arsene @ Arsenal — destiny. 🙂

  • swikrath

    Bravo, my story if i ever write one would be pretty much the same except rewind two more years(ie i started supporting Arsenal from 2001).Just one minor correction if i may, BCCI is the richest sporting body in the world!not just in cricket..

  • Aditya

    Thanks Guys.
    @Swikrath – Wow, even I didn’t know that the BCCI was that rich!!. Well, reinforces my point. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mandy dodd

    Refreshing to read in the light of the hatred, nervous breakdowns and doom being spread on other blogs out there.
    There are fans out there talking about boycotts, sitin protests, petitions, some even delighting in losing to spurs as the club will now have to act, whatever that means.
    This club have to turn things around and quickly but fans need to back them. This is going to be a difficult season, we are competing for a top four place with a team who spent 35m on andy Carroll, and who, after kennys rem meeting with mike Riley are getting every decision going. But great to read something from a true fan who actually backs the team, that is in short supply today

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Popularity in India aside, I think a few of us would like to see us put in a hefty bid for Juan Nils. As a thirty something cricket fan, I grew up believing Englandbattingcollapse was a real word and Arsenaldefensiveerror is being submitted to Oxford shortly.

  • Excellent stuff Aditya 🙂
    Arsenal is the most popular (based on a survey by Goal.com) European club in India, & also the most attractive one, largely thanks to le prof.
    Patience is what we need at this point in time.

  • Naren

    Aditya,
    There is not much left to tell you the moment you make excuses in the very first line of the article…but the least that could have been done was to provide factually correct information and not make biased claims on its basis.
    You infer the buying power of the sport enthusiasts in the country to be high from two observations-IT and ITES providing a lot of jobs and the country being one billion strong.
    Firstly, IT industry in the country employs, both directly and indirectly, only 2.5 million people. How many of them are sport enthusiasts, then football enthusiasts, then Gooners, then so in love that they go spend on original merchandise? Miniscule and insignificant number.
    Secondly, out of those one billion, approximately 645 million Indians live below the poverty line according to one estimate.
    India may definitely be a consumer-rich country but does it have rich consumers? No.
    Without going further into labour statistics and demographics, there should be hardly 100 million Indians who spend anything significant towards sports. Spending towards Arsenal is negligible.
    What does BCCI being the richest board got anything to do with purchase power parity of fans in the country? You might say that that purchase power parity is what made the BCCI that rich. It is too lengthy to be discussed here but even then what place does it have in an article about why Arsene should stay at Arsenal?
    Writing for the first time does not mean that it should not be good.

  • Ugandan Goon

    @adtiya,
    Welcome to untold, i think this is just what we need- a bit of perspective! well done but as you can see it is hard to be positive on untold but keep plugging away- all mouths can be made to smile including naren’s, eh?

  • Sammy

    Hello.

    BCCI is not the richest sporting body in the world, stupid!

  • Shard

    Naren

    OUCH!! That was really harsh.. 🙂

    But yes, I agree with Naren that there are a few inaccuracies in the article. As Naren has already indicated, the purchasing power of the people, and indeed the interest in purchase of sports memorabilia is very limited.

    That contention is what led Chelsea to shelve its plans for India for the time being. The way to go about it for clubs is to either utilise advertising for other products (which a large consumer base will buy) and tie it in for indirect benefits. ManU actually do this with India’s largest telecom provider (Airtel) and others. But there is huge potential in that sense.
    Another way to do it is to invest in grassroots level football and maybe one day bring through a player into the Arsenal first team. Arsenal have already gone down this route with a tie up with Tata and I think it fits best with the Arsenal way of doing things.
    However, for the near future, I don’t think India will be a priority market for any club.

    Also, I guess it was Aditya’s experience, but in mine, no one I have ever met has been in any way surprised by the possibility of a football match ending scoreless. Football has a long history in India, and while it is only popular in certain pockets of the country, I feel the general awareness of the game is fairly high. (Even though the offside law may not be clear to people)

    I’ve been an Arsenal fan since 1997, and like Aditya it was the name which first interested me. That and the white sleeves. While the coverage was very little, one of my first memories of football was watching Euro 96. David Beckham’s halfway line goal (and hence ManU’s name) and Tony Yeboah’s screamer were also some highlights that I remember being on TV. Live club matches were rare (ManU-Arsenal was one I remember) but highlights could be seen on daily or weekly sports new programmes. The boost probably slowly began post-World Cup 98.

    In fact, in my view, and it is just my view, a lot of the Arsenal fans we have in India, were Arsenal fans before the Abramovich effect was felt, and our not spending big amounts isn’t really a selling point for us in the emerging market. Chelsea fans have sprung up all over the place since they spent 20m on Veron etc, and I think its a misrepresentation that our lack of spending makes us more popular among the uninitiated. Our good football, and our history do help us of course, and we do appeal to neutrals in a sense. But fans, at least initially, are drawn to glory, and I think we have lost out in recent years.

    Either way. I think its a stretch to use that as a contention for Wenger to stay at Arsenal. Because I don’t think I’d want Wenger gone because we aren’t attracting new fans in India. Wenger is great for Arsenal. He should stay for that reason. The rest will follow if the club plays its cards right.

    P.S. Someone claimed Arsenal have the most fans in India. I think that’s false. It is bound to be ManU, and we probably come a distant second. However, I think a lot of ManU fans are ‘plastics’ or just casual fans, and don’t really care too much about the football or the club. Most Arsenal fans seem more attached to the club. Seem to relate more with it. I suppose in times like this, we’ll weed out the plastics anyway who will just move on to Barca, ManU, ManCity or whoever else.

  • Aditya

    Thanks all for sharing your comments.
    @Naren – Ouch is right my friend, haha. Thanks for the feedback though. Just a couple of points that I wanted to make. I understand your logic of the population vs poverty etc and what percentage of people are where. But let me just take you in another direction. According to a lot of surveys conducted recently (Live Mint, WSJ for example) Indian middle class as a number is around 300 million, now that is a huge number, considering the population of the United States is a little over 305 million. This number was the basis for my inference. Of-course after that how many sports, and how many football fans etc, are just mere assumptions. I was just trying to point out the potential, and how awareness is growing.
    @Shard – I remember reading about this Tata partnership now that you mention it, and you are probably right. it might just be the best way to go forward. Also, I am not so sure if Arsenal is the most popular club in India myself, but if I am not wrong, Arsenal is the only EPL club that has an official supporters club in India i.e. recognized by the club, on their website etc. Dont think any of the other clubs have this.
    If I am wrong guys, please correct me.
    @Sammy – I am pretty confident that BCCI is the richest cricket board in the world. Is it the richest sporting body, we will have to check with Swikrath.

  • Aditya

    @Ugandan Goon – Thanks for the words of encouragement :-).

  • Naren

    Shard,
    No harsh feelings really, just that it is indeed the truth. The smiley after harsh, does it mean something else?! 🙂

    Aditya,
    Please do forgive me if that was harsh…I have nothing against it; just that it was a bit incoherent and incorrect. This could have been a great article but for the said deficiencies and more editing. With that headline, you make one expect really more as to why Arsene should stay.
    I insist-writing for the first time need not mean it be not good…finally, never ever apologize to anyone for writing-good or bad, you wrote it and considered it, along with the editor, worthy of publication. However, if you yourself are not satisfied with it, then abstain from publishing as you do yourself a disservice. Honestly, that first sentence irked me more than anything else in the piece.
    Good luck for the next one. Cheers.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Its always nice to read any article that comes from the heart –
    as it touches the heart .Nice one Aditya !As for why Arsene @ Arsenal is right ,in the words of Master Yoda,” ..the Force is strong in that one “.Keep the faith.
    @ Woolwich Peripatetic ,thanks for the laugh re: England’s batting.It brought to mind of a newspaper cartoon of the Bombay test (1983 or ’84),where England collapsed in the 2nd innings.
    It showed the England team tamely trooping in order past the dreaded finger of Umpire Swroop Krishen !

  • Pat

    Aditya, I had just been feeling a bit gloomy after reading some negative comments about Arsenal and your article cheered me up. Thanks for that!

  • Tasos

    Sorry to go off topic

    The European court of justice rule in favour of Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy in her legal battle against Sky TV.

  • Mihir

    The point most of you are missing about India being a huge market is the penetration of the TV. The TV viewership in total is approx. 415 million and growing. That is where the money is and it is precisely why a little more effort should be put in marketing the club in India.
    Overall, an excellent article Aditya. Reminds me of the days when I used to follow the club through the two line match reports in newspapers and the one or two odd matches shown on TV. It is just something else supporting the arsenal! So much so that my fiance has decided to watch football and has declared her support for Manchester United!(She being my second true love after all! :). Keep posting!

  • I can fnd a lot of parallel to the way I started following Arsenal. To be precise, for me it started off with hatred for Dennis Bergkamp for scoring that awesome goal in 98 WC q/f against Argentina (Argentina being an easily likeable team in those days because of the startcast they had). Once the WC was over, I decided to follow Dennis Bergkamp and came to know he plays for Arsenal. I was in awe of this guy, and the team he plays for. For me Arsenal was like love at first sight. Unitl then I knew only Manchester United as a football team.

    Being in a cricket crazy county and being someone whose taste was to admire the technical excellance of a Rahul Dravid or a Mark Waugh rather than the flamboyance of a Sachin Temdulkar, it was natural for me to end up being a Gooner.

    GOONER FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Nice article, regardless of the stats and predictions for financial and fan support potential in India. I spent a month in Bhopal in 2001 and fell in love with the country, the people but unfortunately not cricket, being used to a 90 minute, rapid and skillful race to see who can outscore whom in Football. Keep writing and sharing your faith and love for the Arsenal…we need to hear more of that and less whining from overfed,overhyped and overwhelmed moaners and groaners.

  • Alok Thapliyal

    great post Aditya..exactly my story-just that i started supporting The Arsenal from 2001 n yeah Arsenal chose me 🙂

  • Lovely piece Aditya, so good I will consider the name for my first Son if you are kind enough to furnish me with the meaning. But I have a problem with the title too, not only that I feel you didn’t have enough in the text body to justify your puchline but also cos I dont subscribe to people supporting a coach because of his past deeds. Did your grades in High School get you through college? Definitely no, we have to earn what we get day after day and I believe Wenger isn’t using what is at his disposal to get what we need. Moreover, people keep thinking the only way we can get rid of Wenger is by sacking him. No, we will just find an irrelevant position in the board where he meddles less with direct club ideas to lumber him. And his work is easier upstairs cos he can sure do better with Gazidis and his ambiguous comments.