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The support at Arsenal: A cacophony of voices

A cacophony of voices: a view from row 13

By Blacksheep

The Capitol One cup brings a different audience to the Emirates; one that doesn’t often get the chance the see the Arsenal in the flesh.

I went along because it was a big game and I won’t pay the Murdoch shilling to watch it on Sky. At only £10 to sit where I usually do (north bank lower, row 13) it seemed a bargain. To see Özil, Ramsey, Cazorla, the HFB and Jack was a bonus. Shame we didn’t win but on the night Chelski’s reserves were just better than ours.

But I don’t want to write about the game, many others have already done that and probably better than I could. No I want to write about the support.

From the moment I took my seat I could see that I was about the only ST holder in my immediate area who had chosen to sit in their own seat. Everybody around me was a stranger. The guys to my left were related to the ST holder who usually sits there, they had come up from Brighton and were amazed that, quote:  “you pay £60 every week to watch this rubbish”. They moaned a lot, mainly about NB23 (who, to be fair, gave a pretty inept performance).

To my right were six friends (5 lads and a girl) all aged about 18-25. After five minutes they were bemoaning the selection, calling for subs and at HT one of them started booing. I’ve not slept much recently, look a bit haggard and unshaven and so when I told him in no uncertain terms: “you don’t boo the team mate, not now, not here, not ever,” he shut up. They had all gone with 15 minutes to go (as had many others prompting the opposition’s derisive ‘fire drill’ chants).

But there were lots of people singing, a good atmosphere I thought, although I’ve heard reports of the stewards going in to block 19 and telling people to stop abusing the opposition fans. Not sure if it is true or not but I’d like to hear from anyone in that area. Chelsea got 9,000 tickets and we had to suffer their tiresome dirges for long periods. So the idea that anyone connected with the club tried to stop home fans from slating them is a little worrying. The mood is good at the moment, despite defeats to Dortmund and El Moanio’s mercenaries, and the crowd have been in good voice – we need to build on that.

My favourite fan of the night was a guy who started singing (well shouting) (well actually, SCREAMING) ten minutes before the teams came out. He didn’t get all the songs right and I thought he might not be English. He wasn’t. I spoke to him and his stunningly attractive girlfriend at HT. They were Norwegian. He was studying at Queen Mary’s, University of London and goes to a lot of games.

He was SO LOUD I thought he would hurt himself. He annoyed the guys next to me and at first I was worried I would go deaf so close was he to my right ear. But such passion for our team was impressive, from KO to final whistle and I wish we had a few thousand like him.

As Tony pointed out earlier in the week, Arsenal don’t get the credit they deserve for reducing the prices for CC games. For all the talent on view (and Mata’s goal was good, shame it was for them…sign him up Arsene, Moany doesn’t want him!) it was fantastic value. There were loads of Junior Gunners there too, and despite the result so many of them who went for the first time will be hooked now, just as I was when I watched us lose 0-1 to Stoke in the early 1970s.

I hate losing but I was glad I went. I just hope that next time we play Chelsea it’s our fans that go home happy.

The books…

And from the same team…

14 comments to The support at Arsenal: A cacophony of voices

  • Rupert Cook

    This is what someone said about the stewards. Read it and see why, just maybe, our home support is often restrained.

    http://www.thefootballnetwork.net/boards/read/s378.htm?721,14410744

    Now I don’t go to Arsenal games any more. I either watch them in the pub or on some dodgy stream from Papua New Guinea. I simply can’t afford to go so I’ll drift off to the odd Oxford game. The home support that we had 20 years ago has,on the whole, been priced out. I know many people who have given up with following their premier ship team and now go and watch teams in the lower leagues.

    If you look at some of the comments on that link you’ll see a guy there called Celine Dion. This is a fan who’s been going to home games since the late 80’s. He now no longer goes. He makes some interesting points, not particularly politically correct, but I have to concur that the few games I’ve been to seem to be attended by people playing on their phones, tourists, rich people who have got a freebie from work, people who seem to be familiar with the manager but can barely name three players in the team and randoms who do things like their knitting (yes someone was actually knitting at one game).

    These people are quite welcome to waste their money in anyway they want but I suggest they are not your hardcore fan who will sing his heart out in support of his team. I hazard a guess they couldn’t really care whether Arsenal win the league or finish 10th. Arsenal have got the support they deserve though, they want to appeal to the anodyne types who sit politely, the types I’ve mentioned, who let’s face it, as Celine Dion points out, don’t get pissed and sing passionately. Welcome to corporate football.

  • blacksheep63

    Thanks for this Rupert, interesting read from Highbury Harold too. You can spot some of the same sorts of behaviour at music gigs. I went to see the mighty Toots and Maytals at Oxford a few years ago and was shocked/appalled/annoyed at many of the audience who were more interested in chatting or texting than dancing! So perhaps its a modern phenomena; some treat it as just another event to be recorded rather than experienced. But even when I went and stood at Highbury in the late 70s and 80s there were those that used weekly games as a social occasion.
    Not sure it has anything to do with being pissed though. I sing every week and drive home later

  • Rupert Cook

    @Blacksheep63, yes I agree, Highbury was not always a deafening cauldron of pro-Arsenal shouting and singing.

    And gigs, totally agree. Half the audience have got their phones in the air and when they haven’t they’re making a comment on facebook. If that’s youth’s idea of fun I’m glad I’m middle aged.

    Some people need to be a little pissed to lose their inhibitions. I don’t drink either as I drive to most games and it’s the wife who drinks for me. She’s got a better set of lungs too.

  • Shard

    I’ve read the BSM article on the stewarding issue. I don’t really disagree with them there, although they have to understand that if a self avowed protest group sends out a message to all to congregate and buy seats near the opposition fans, especially where there is likely to be bad blood, it is bound to set the alarm bells ringing, among the club and likely the police. There is a reason it was so excessive, and although it’s not absolutely correct that it should be so, it is also understandable.

    As for the issue of tourists etc.. I’m sorry but that’s a load of crap. You can’t bemoan not keeping up with the joneses in the spending money capacity and then also bemoan the global brand that Arsenal has become. So, just because someone is there as a once in a lifetime type experience, and his match day habits are different to the traditional supporters, doesn’t make them less passionate.

    The example I use is like the rock/metal bands of the 80s getting abuse from their earlier hardcore fan group once they became big MTV stars. It happens because the older supporters don’t feel special anymore.

    As fans’ groups, theyshould be reaching out to the supporters who don’t normally get a chance to visit the stadium. Welcome them. Collect them as a group and take them out to the pub with you before the game. Offer them the chance to absorb the club’s history. Not just hold up their noses at the ‘newbies’ coming in and taking ‘our’ game away from us. That’s just silly.

    They could even get together with the club and get some freebies or discounts and access to events organised for large groups of overseas fans through their supporters group, so that they too can feel involved. It’s all possible, but it involves getting off of the high horse and recognising that their club is not just theirs anymore, and that this is a good thing. Won’t hold my breath in anticipation of that happening though.

  • alex

    I was expecting to read something about the Liverpool game not stewards.

    I had a good feel we are going to beat them by two goals and I can see we will boss the midfield. I am not sure for a clean sheet though.

  • Rupert Cook

    @Shard, good point about reaching out to foreign fans. I don’t disagree with this but what you don’t understand is that some of these people aren’t Arsenal fans, they just want to see a game of football at a big club in a big stadium. I know several people who get tickets for Arsenal games from work, you know, a little corporate jolly. Very few of them are Arsenal fans. Even the ones that are are often strangers to live football.

    I’ve done the same thing abroad. Saw Athletico Madrid play Celtic many years ago. Actually that was a real culture shock as we were sat with the Spanish fans and loads of them were swigging from bottles of wine. This was many years ago so I’m not sure if that still happens.

    Anyway, yes I think the foreign fans should be welcomed by groups, escorted to the pub and told to sing up during the whole game.

  • Shard

    Rupert

    I’m sure we get a lot of those sorts too, who are at most curious about watching a game live. But that’s just the way it is. I don’t know why we have to bemoan their existence. And if even 5% of those go away from the game feeling some connect with the club it can result in the club finding new fans, maybe even in far off places. Everyone’s cynical about money, but it was always important. There are just more possibilities now. Think of the corporates as subsidising the rest of the stadium. Which in effect, they do.

    There’s no reason the rest of the fans can’t make up for any lack of noise. There will be lots of overseas fans who don’t know the songs and/or don’t know anyone else hence are reluctant to sing.

    There might need to be a solution such as giving away non-numbered seats, (although this might be a legal requirement as of now), so that people who know each other can sit together and sing as a group. This is where the supporters groups could reach out to the ‘day fans’ and get them involved. But even without the seating, at least something can be achieved with minimal effort. The locals go to the pubs anyway. Give the new fans a chance to tag along and make them feel welcome. Get together with the club and arrange group discounts for stadium tours, or arrange meet and greet events or something. We do that on foreign tours anyway, so this could become a semi-regular feature as well.

    I realise that’s up to the club, but it should be the fans’ groups suggesting it, rather than simply railing about how times have changed.

  • sebjob

    its good Arsenal treat away fans well, went to Barcelona against At. Madrid, in the Supercup that has no importance there…but still, even more silent than my local Norwegian ground who are the current champions of Norway. Which was a shock, guess loads of the supporters were tourists as me. Of course, had a Parisian trying to rip me off even sniffing coke in the seat next to me as well as smoking several of time and treating other supporters like shit. He had also stolen the seats of some polite tourists, and a few of us told them to go move which they eventually did. There was no control of this, by any steward. And the away supporters, they had a small enclosure…when I say enclosure, it was really like a bird cage. Small, and far up in the upper tier behind the goal. Police and stewards seemed to heckle them for no reason. So I welcome the initiatives Arsenal have made to even make it better for away supporters, and lower prices as well. Believe it is vital for the game, and also to make measurements to lower prices and welcome true supporters. If stadiums get filled with only those willing to pay, and not true supporters, the game will lose on it in the long-run

  • sebjob

    …the question though; how can you measure a true supporter?

  • sebjob

    Is the supporter measured in their ability to pay, as customers? In their longevity in formal affiliation with the club, supporter clubs etc? In years of having a season ticket? Of geography? In their vocal support? In knowing the songs, then how do they get to know them? Who includes them, and how is it done? Shard mentioned supporter groups to get them involved and reach out. Then it comes to the issue of locality within the stadium, and as this norwegian who obviously was representing my country well; he was quite isolated, and from experience with Norwegians, we are organized people, we like to sing in groups; and in a mix of all kinds of cultures within a stadium, many people unknown and new to each other, seeing each other for the first time. There must be something in common, so maybe not even the question of support is the relevant one; is it rather what brings them together, and then support is a good start

  • Mandy Dodd

    Off topic but Atkinson tomorrow

  • Pat

    Interesting article Blacksheep.

    I’m glad you had a strong word with the person who was booing.
    Also glad the atmosphere was generally positive.

    From the exchange between Shard and Rupert it looks as if there are two sides to the interpretation of the behaviour of the stewards. They are not usually so heavy handed, so maybe as Shard says they had been warned about some pre-planned provocation.

  • OMGArsenal

    I can only pray that one day I’ll get to see the Arsenal live, either here in Canada on a tour or in the UK. Foreign supporters do not have the priviledge to see games on a regular basis live. When we do get to see one we want to take in everything; the atmosphere, the pub crawl, the supporters singing, the beautiful playing, the spirit of AFC etc. Maybe we are too polite and quiet but that is often because we are in awe of this special,almost holy occasion. the Emirates is our cathedral and the game is our service, we take out of it what we can since we’ll likely never see it again live.

  • Rupert Cook

    @OMG Arsenal, if you ever get to the Emirates do not be quiet. That is not respectful, show your respect by offering loud cheers in support of the team. Don’t want you to be overawed, want you to join in. Hope you get there one day.

    @Shard, I’m not bemoaning the existence of silent visitors I would just like them to observe some traditions. If I go to a foreign country I respect their culture. Similarly if you come to the “country” known as Arsenal FC you should respect our traditions, that is you sing up for the home team. It’s a fairly small request.