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What is the role of the football fan? The view of a superstar…

What is the role of the football fan? There’s only one Baron Davis!

By Ian Jenkinson.

@Gooneriano

As you may have read in Walter’s article on the Dortmund match, I too was very lucky to be in attendance at the game with two friends.

I was looked after by some very good people with the tickets and after the game we travelled from Dortmund to Dusseldorf where we were staying the night and bumped into a sports star all the way from the US of A. Randomness is a funny thing but something that this sports star said to us pushed me to write this article.

Attending games is something that I appreciate so much. I only get to games twice, maybe three times a season if I am lucky. I do not live in England let alone London and I cannot afford to go over more often (until I win the lottery!).

I know there are vast numbers of Arsenal fans out there with so much passion for the club that have never been to a match and sadly may never get to one and I never forget that when I am travelling to a game. I remind myself how privileged I am to be going to see The Arsenal. These trips are huge highlights in my year and I look forward to them for months. So when I travel to a match I feel, as a fan, that I have to give as best a positive vocal performance for the team as possible.

When we attend games as Arsenal fans we expect a certain level of performance from the team and the manager but I also think that the team and manager should expect a certain level of support from us. Now I know that the team and manager get paid a huge amount of money to do what they do and the average Joe Soaps like us are the ones funding this but I still think a certain level of support should always be maintained. After all, we do go there by choice, nobody forces us to go.

So, what is the role of the fan that goes to see their team? Surely it is as basic and as simple as this: You support the team. You have taken time away from family (or maybe have gone to great expense and brought them along), you have willingly spent money on the ticket and you are very excited to be going there (well you should be). So why would you do anything but support the team?

Imagine a scenario where your support was the difference between a win and a loss.  Imagine if you and those around you lifted the team just enough to edge them forward and score a goal that won a game. Imagine if your support made our defenders feel 2 inches taller when we are defending a lead. Imagine if we made a wall of noise that it made them feel like a brick wall themselves, like nobody will pass them. How priceless would that be to a team’s points tally come the end of the season?

I feel that the fans can and do make that difference, we can drag a team over the line or push them forward when it is needed. We can quite literally be a twelfth man.

So why are there still Arsenal fans, mainly at the Emirates who don’t support the team on match days? These people stand and shout random abuse at the players and manager. Why? To what purpose?

Have you noticed how after every away game the players who are interviewed mentioned the fans? Not so much at home. Ramsey, Wilshere, Giroud and Arteta have all mentioned the fans after away games. Wenger even touched on the home support not getting completely behind the team. Bendtner spoke about how great it was to hear his chant again during the West Brom League Cup game. Giroud has spoken of how he feels when his chant goes up.

What we sing and how we sound matters.

So, back to Dusseldorf and our sports star. Myself, Michael and Aidan are in high spirits after the match and we decide to go for post-match beverages in Dusseldorf. We find a strip of bars and head into the first one. In there we happen to meet a group of Gooners from New York and a lad from London. After singing a few Arsenal songs and getting to know the group we find out that one of them is a man called Baron Davis who happens to be an NBA basketball player with the New York Knicks. We were very excited!

Now, I must confess, my knowledge of the NBA is pretty much at zero but I was intrigued that here in front of us in a bar in Dusseldorf was an NBA sports star decked out in Arsenal colours and very much enjoying the singing of Arsenal songs and general Arsenal banter. Our regular American Untold readers may be able to tell me more about Baron but having researched him a bit since returning home it seems that he is a well thought of, successful basketball player. He was a two time NBA All Star. So this guy knows his stuff.

The one thing that stood out was how much Baron and the rest of the New York crew absolutely loved the individual chants for the Arsenal players and the chants in general. They were really pumped up when we were singing them and we even managed to teach them one or two more!

The reason I mention all this is because Baron said something which gave me a great insight into the effect of what positive chanting can do to an individual’s performance. We asked him if there were songs for individual players in the NBA and he said that there weren’t but he really wished there was as that would add so much to the atmosphere. We then asked him if a loud positive crowd has any effect on him personally when he is playing. He replied something along the lines of “Man, when I hear the crowd roar or if things get especially loud at an important part of the game I get goose bumps, I get a big adrenalin rush and I feel like I can give 10-20% more.”

And that really struck a chord with me, although it isn’t a profound statement, it is quite natural that players will react to a positive chant or roar (well they should do) but here was a man who was at the top of his profession who completely confirmed the thought. It wasn’t even what he said, it was the way he said it. As he said it, it was as though he transported himself onto a basketball court and surrounded himself with a cacophony of positive sound. He had a glint in his eye.

When he told us that there were no individual chants for players in the NBA we almost instinctively started chanting Arsenal songs but instead of using Arsenal players names we swopped them with “Baron Davis” and he absolutely loved it!! We had such a good laugh and I must say Baron was a complete gentleman as were the rest of the group – Richard Anthony (who I think is Baron’s agent? I would be happy to stand corrected there), Luke and the girls.

Baron Davis

Gooners on Tour: Aidan, Richard Anthony, Baron Davis, Mick and Ian celebrating a wonderful 0-1 win.

I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember the two girl’s names! Luke, from London is taking the picture.

 

So why would any fan go to a game and hurl abuse at players, the manager and anybody else? Why would somebody pay for a ticket, buy beer etc. and then spend 90 minutes being a bit of an idiot? Surely this can only have a bad effect on the team. And the more people that do it the worse it will be. The team needs our support every week. It is completely pointless abusing the players as they will never react in a positive way so therefore renders the abuse counter intuitive.

Look at Gervinho, his career has taken off again at Roma where he is cheered rather than jeered as he was at Arsenal. The likes of Chamakh, Eboue and Bendtner etc. were never going to flourish at Arsenal with the boo boys on their back (Bendtner has one last chance, why not support him and give him the best opportunity?).

That said, the atmosphere has come back to the Emirates a bit this season and it is great to hear. You have no idea how my heart warms when I hear the songs, especially the “We’re the North Bank…..” chant. I really love it and every Arsenal fan that is lucky to be able to go to the games week in, week out must do their bit to enhance that atmosphere further and therefore the performance of the players. Let us get rid of any negativity from the stadium. Let the players and management feed from us.

The proof is there, it has come from the mouth of a two time NBA All Star. We matter. How vocal we are matters. So get behind the team home or away, whether we are winning, drawing or losing. Your voice could make all the difference.

Be loud, be heard and most importantly – be positive.

It matters.

@Gooneriano

The books…

The sites from the same team…

And beyond football…

 

14 comments to What is the role of the football fan? The view of a superstar…

  • WalterBroeckx

    Holy Cow, Ian…and I thought meeting me was the highlight of the evening in Dortmund. 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Ok, I know my place 😉

    AMAZING!!! I had to do with the regular lads from the Benelux and Ian was talking to a real NBA star….

    What a trip that has been….

  • WalterBroeckx

    To add to your story I throw in my own little story. In my younger days I knew the captain of the local club I support in Belgium. In those days a club that was a regular club in the top division. Sometimes going down a year and the next year coming back but most of the time in the top division. (Times have changed.. alas)

    But after a bad year I spoke with him about the support and he confirmed me that there is nothing worse than playing in front of a crowd that doesn’t support you. And he also said that the crowd can raise the game of a team. And the non-support let alone abuse or boo from own supporters can cut a players his legs off.
    He also said that for some players it is the difference between playing good to great or being useless.

    After he had talked about this, I vowed to only support the teams I support when I am in the stadium. I don’t want to be the reason that a player loses his confidence by shouting abuse at him.

    So hearing it from the mouth of an NBA player (the top of the basketball in the world) is another confirmation about the importance each of us has when going to a match.

    By the way: did you get your voice back soon? I had to take it easy till Saturday 🙂

  • TJ

    I am with you about getting behind the players and I was especially really disappointed for Gervinho who was obviously talented but couldn’t find his feet. Bendtner though is a different story altogether. How many chances does he need? He has been talking again this week while on international duty about his unhappiness at Arsenal. That couldn’t be too good for squad morale and team spirit. It’s difficult to get behind someone like that and as an Arsenal fan I would rather see Afobe on the bench than him.

  • Gord

    A long time ago, I heard that USA university hockey was as good as Canadian university hockey. So, I drove 1900 km (Edmonton to Minneapolis) to watch a UMn Gophers game (and drove through a blizzard on the way there).

    The hockey wasn’t all that great, it was okay. The arena was quite a bit bigger than we had at UAlberta, and it was full of fans. And what surprised me the most, is that there were cheer-leaders at the game. During play, they were in the stands. During intermissions, they were on the ice.

    I agree the supporters in the stadium, and outside the stadium (for those who don’t have a ticket?) need to be positive. But, the media also needs to be positive. The Guardian had a longish article yesterday or the day before about the changing atmosphere at games (the article mentioned Arsenal and Tottenham). But this media person never made a single mention of the effect they have on the fans, and hence the games.

  • john

    One thing all Arsenal fans, indeed all sports fans, should do is join the fight against racism as per “Gooners Against Apartheid”

  • BILL FROM MANHATTAN

    Just thought I will enlighten our European gunners about Baron Davis. He is a highly respected point guard who has played in the NBA for over a dozen years. He has played in several All Star games and is a top quality player. A point guard is a player who takes control of the game and distributes the ball to the other players in good positions so they can score. Some point guards are also prolific scorers themselves and Davis has averaged more than 20 points per game in several seasons as well as being among the league leaders in assists. In football terms he would be considered to be a Bergkamp or Ozil, A team player who makes his teammates look good. Ian, glad i could give you a short bio about Baron Davis.

  • blacksheep63

    Ian you didn’t get the girls’ names? Next you’ll be telling us you didn’t get their phone numbers!

    more seriously, good post which I agree with. However, I think I have identified difference between occasional visitors to the Grove and ST holders, and even sub divisions within them.

    There are some ST who, having forked out at least £1,000 p.a. to watch the Arsenal who feel they have earned the right to heckle (so to speak). Now I don’t but I do respect their right to do so. I will not tolerate abuse or booing, but forceful criticism at times I understand.

    Then there are those that go when they can (like me a few years ago) for whom the Ems should be a place of wonder. I can’t understand why they can be so negative, unless they are simply behaving as the media tell them they are supposed to.

    The players always applaud the home support and this season it has been much better, much more vocal. It will never match the away lot though, those guys are inspirational and if I had a) more money and b) more time I’d join them. Until then, hat’s off!

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @ Walter

    Let’s just say that i met two superstars that night!! And it goes to show from your story from another professional sports person how important we are as a crowd.

    @ TJ

    I agree that Bendtner hasn’t acted particularly well of late and i can understand people being annoyed at him but my point is that while he is on the field wearing an Arsenal shirt surely we should be egging him on rather than abusing him? For the teams (and our own) sake. For the greater good so to speak.

    @ Gord

    That was some trek. Fair play man!

    @ John

    No place for racism in any walk of life, not just sports. And the quicker it is dealt with the better.

    @ Bill

    Thank you for the insight on Baron, it is great to hear the role he plays for his team. I have watched a few clips of him in action and he seems to have scored a lot of very important 3 pointers and i did see him setting up baskets (is that what they are called?!) in very stylish ways. Lots of fancy moves in there!

    @ blacksheep

    I know! I’m losing my touch! The girls were very much into the chanting and singing too. They got into the spirit of it all, they were great fun.

    I know there is an element of “i spent the money on the ticket so i can act how i please” there and in some cases i agree with that, i don’t mind people groaning if someone makes a blunder or if someone is clearly not making any effort on the pitch. That is human nature.

    It is the 90 minutes of shouting and swearing and abusing that i am referring to. What on earth is that all about? It is a free country and people are free (within reason) to shout/do what they like at a football match. I just don’t understand why they feel the need to do it at that level.

  • Pat

    Nice article, Ian. Well said!

  • nicky

    For some peculiar reason, over recent years, the home crowd at the Emirates has become fickle in the extreme. The shocking attitude displayed towards Eboue, Denilson, Squillaci and Ramsey for example, speaks for itself. It’s as though the crowd have a death wish, the desire for a self-inflicted wound, relishing failure. Whether it’s because Arsenal are trophy-less in recent times, the lack of atmosphere in the huge stadium or impatience for success, it is difficult to assess.
    Students of the game will surely say that unless the support of the team by the HOME fans becomes 100% at all times, the search for success will be just that little bit more difficult to achieve.
    And we can do without the attitude that “possession of a ticket gives the right to verbal abuse”. Not if it causes a lack of confidence and performance by players trying their best in plying their trade.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice ,Ian , hits the sweet spot ! All fans must be supporters first . There will be disappointments ,but always try to look on the bright side and get behind the team .
    Once the issue of bragging ‘rights’ has been bypassed , along with the avoidance of negative influences ( yes , that’s you- you AAAA types !) just loving your team becomes easier and simpler .
    Bitch and moan ,but under your breath if you must but don’t pass the negativity on to others . Deal with it yourselves !
    Up the Gunners !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Having said that , sometimes ,its not their fault…

    This blonde decides one day that she is sick and tired of all these blonde jokers and how all blondes are perceived as stupid So, she decides to show her husband that blondes really are smart.

    While her husband is off at work, she decides that she is going to paint a couple of rooms in the house. The next day, right after her husband leaves for work, she gets down to the task at hand.

    Her husband arrives home at 5:30 and smells the distinctive smell of paint.
    He walks into the living room and finds his wife lying on the floor in a pool of sweat..
    He notices that she is wearing a heavy parka and a leather jacket at the same time.
    He goes over and asks her if she if OK. She replies yes. He asks what she is doing and she replies that she wanted to prove to him that not all blonde women are dumb and she wanted to do it by painting the house..

    He then asks her why she has a parka over her leather jacket. She replies that she was reading the directions on the paint can and it said…

    “FOR BEST RESULTS, PUT ON TWO COATS.”

  • ARSENAL 13

    Fan. Fan is a machine. It operates when switched on.

    The difference between a fan and a supporter is, a supporter supports his team, no matter what. The day the ems is filled up to the brim by supporters, the atmosphere will be electric. Hope that day comes sooner…..

  • WalterBroeckx

    Arsenal13,
    That day the electricity will blow away the “fan(s)’