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Following Arsenal from Afar

By Tony Attwood

Sometimes I think I have it a bit hard.  I live in a part of England called the East Midlands.  It is a nice rural community in a county that is made up a mixture of sheep farming and light industry.

I quite like it here but there is a problem.  My home is about 100 miles from  the Emirates.  So to get to each Saturday afternoon match we leave at around 11am – four hours before kick off.  It doesn’t take us four hours to get there of course, but the English road system is liable to seize up without warning.  One has to allow for delays, accidents and all sort of other misdemeanors.   Twice this season we have been caught in huge traffic jams and only just made it into the ground in time for kick off.



So we drive south, part at one of the underground stations, and make the last five miles of the journey via the underground.  If there are no traffic problems and no train problems we arrive  at about 1.30pm, leaving us 90 minutes to pass before the game starts.

At the end of the match, we queue up with everyone else to get the tube away from Arsenal, and do the whole thing in reverse.  With luck we are home before 8pm.

Nine hours, just to watch 90 minutes of football.

Some of the season ticket holders who sit near me can’t believe how much travelling I do to see a game.  Sometimes it seems a bit much to me, but then I stopped complaining when I met Walter Broeckx and the group of supporters from the Benelux Arsenal Supporters Club last Christmas.  Their journey involved a car trip to Antwerp, a train journey to Brussels, and then in theory a Eurostar train under the English Channel which brings them into London.  Except that the Eurostar booking system went wrong, and they couldn’t take their place on the train.  Instead they had to find a ferry, and then a train from the south coast of England to London, and then the underground.

They did it, and when I met them they were smiling and laughing.   Nine hours nothing.  These guys were going to be out for 19 hours, if not more.

And this is the problem.  The Arsenal fans who like me was born and brought up a couple of miles from the ground, think that anything more than a 15 minute journey to a football match is an outrage.  We feel that watching Arsenal is our right.  It is part of our life.  When we were children there was no overseas support.  And so it is very hard indeed to understand what it is like to support Arsenal from afar.

I know that every time my partner and I approach the Emirates we see lots of people who are clearly visiting the ground for the very first time.  They gather at the far end of the North Bridge and take photos of each other, with the stadium and the giant picture of Thierry Henry in the background.  They are always laughing, smiling, so happy to be there.

Meanwhile us regular season ticket holders march past complaining about the weather, the traffic, the delays on the underground, and the problem trying to get a pint in the pub.



Except now I have started to tell everyone I meet about the fact that there are Arsenal supporters in India, running their own web site, and supporting Arsenal with the same fervency that we have.  In fact I often think they are more fervent than we are.   You’ve probably seen a link to them on this site. They are in a country where football is very much not the top sport, and where the national team does not much of an impact – at least from where I am sitting (apologies to everyone in India if this is changing – I am as usual reflecting a very Anglo-Centric view).

I have also started to think that we should do more to support our fellow Gooners overseas, because it is your support (not ours) that is spreading the word about Arsenal on a worldwide basis, and allowing Arsenal to grow into a world-wide club.

I must admit I wasn’t too sure what I could do, until the intrepid Arsenal supporters from Belgium came up with an idea.  “How about,” they suggested, “an association to bring all the Arsenal supporters clubs and blogs across the world, together into one informal association?”

I must say I think this is a brilliant idea, and I’ve been doing what I can to support the notion by mentioning it from time to time.   As a result “Arsenal Worldwide” has taken a step forward, and the Benelux club has written to Arsenal, and Arsenal has shown a real interest in the idea.

So the first steps are being taken to set this organisation up.  The opening plan (at least at first) will be to publish an on-line magazine in which Arsenal supporters outside England can share their views, their experiences and their ideas.  I think it can only do good.

I would like to thank everyone at 11 Gunners for all that you have done, in opening my eyes to the dedication that there is towards Arsenal FC in India, and helping myself, and other Gooners realise that rather than complain about the journey we should be recognising your dedication to the cause that we all share.

At this moment Arsenal Worldwide is still an idea which is being discussed between the club and some supporters clubs.  I hope to have the chance to write a little more about this in the future as the idea develops.

If you want to know more about Arsenal Worldwide write to WalterBroeckx@hotmail.com  For 11 Gunners in India, use the link above.

Tony Attwood

Tony Attwood is author of “Making the Arsenal” the story of Arsenal 100 years ago, when the club went into administration and the modern club was reborn.  The book is available from the publishers at www.emiratesstadium.info It is also available from Amazon.co.uk

26 comments to Following Arsenal from Afar

  • Tim

    Tony,

    Don’t forget about us Yanks! I live in Tacoma, WA and write a daily Arsenal blog (http://www.7amkickoff.com) and even have an article in the latest Benelux Arsenal magazine about what it’s like for an American on the West Coast of the USA to watch a match and what it means for the club financially.

    On a typical weekend, we have to get up at 7am to watch Arsenal live (thus the 7amkickoff site name) on television. If we are lucky, Arsenal have the late match and we can sleep in until 9:30 but if they have the early game it’s a 4am wakeup call.

    None of which describes the lengths I go to to actually see a match, which I do every year (I’ve even been to Highbury). This year, I planned my trip right and got to see two matches, the 3-1 win over Burnley and the 5-0 win over Porto (magical night that was).

    But even seeing two matches for the price of one means that I fly nearly 10,000 miles (over 18 hours) just to get to London from my home. Then I get to do the pubs and queues and trains like the rest of you.

    The reactions I get from locals range from disbelief to thinking I’m mad. Well, I am mad. Madly in love with the Arsenal.

    10,000 miles doesn’t seem that far a trip for one you love, does it? I mean, someone even wrote a song about that didn’t they?

  • KenyanGooner

    I heard somewhere that soccer mad Kenya has 80% of EPL supporters (who are a large number) being Arsenal supporters!

    Don’t forget Kenya! There’s I think some pseudo-formal body of Arsenal supporters here.

  • dave

    Last year, my friends and I traveled to London from 3 different locations just to watch the Villareal match. One from Florida, one from Chicago, and I traveled from Pordenone, Italy just to experience the atmosphere. Now, living on the west coast of the United States, I had a scheduling conflict with a marathon and watching the Totts match on ESPN where Cesc had that amazing goal, so I got up at 4:30am watched the match and proceeded to run a marathon a couple hours after it ended. Well worth it!

  • LRV

    What a great idea, Tony & Walter. By the way, I saw the Benelux Arsenal magazine today, Walter. However, I could not read the language, except for Tim B’s article.

    Oh yes, I can attest to Tim’s Mad love for The Arsenal. It is great to see.

  • Brett

    Tim’s right, there are Arsenal supporter groups all over USA as well. I’m part of the NYC Arsenal Supporters, and there are over 100 of us that meet up to regularly watch matches, not to mention all those who prefer to watch the Arsenal from home. Tim’s got it slightly worse on travel than I do, but this season I’ll fly 7 hours to London (8 to return) and stay with friends in order to catch the City match at home and making the roadtrip up to renowned vacation spot Blackburn to see the away match.

    I’ve been following Arsenal since seeing a 3-1 home win over Leeds in 1998. While television coverage has made it much easier to follow Arsenal, that pilgrimage to see the boys play (and as i follow Arsenal like a religion, a pilgrimage is what it is) can’t be matched. Still, when we can’t be there, we sing and chant in the pub as though we were, and sing louder on the off-chance that maybe, just maybe, Eboue can hear us sing his name…

    Our facebook page is here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=35912514437&ref=ts

  • Shane

    hey Tony.
    There is a big following of Arsenal supporters down under, in the sunny Australia. And one of the blogs i read regularly is from a guy called Andrew Weber, Arsenalfcblog.com It was just by chance that i stumbled upon his blog, and he turned out to be from Australia. The Australian following was awesome to see, as Bendtner headed home a 94th minute winner, at 3 30am our local time, there was a flurry of excited comments and posts from other Australian gooners. Love the Gunners!!!!!!!!!

  • Wayne

    Wonderful initiative Tony. Do hope that I can contribute some articles as well.

    I am from India and yes Football ranks way way below cricket in terms of popularity. With the recent start of the Indian Premier League for Cricket…there is more and more money being poured into cricket ..sometimes at the cost of other sports.

    Apart from the lack of following and sponsorship..the infrastructure is non existent…so its is no surprise that the Indian Football team is nowhere near world class status. However, there are pockets like Goa, Calcutta (Kolkata) and Kerala where football is followed with almost religious fervour…. and a derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan is almost as eagerly anticipated as Arsenal vs Tottenham :).

    But I would like to beleive that things are slowly but surely changing..especially in the metro cities such as Bombay (Mumbai) and Bangalore. Whereas earlier you would only be seeing cricket being played on the streets…slowly you are seeing a lot of kids playing football. Also there is talk of starting up another football league in India on the lines of the cricket league with substantial amounts of money to be invested . If that happens it will be a dream come true and i truly believe that as a business it has tons and tones of potential especially considering the population of India.

    But yes you are right…there are quite a number of die hard football fans supporting various EPL teams….like always Man Utd fans outnumber the Arsenal fans by far….but slowly the Gunners are also building up a base of support.

    I am a die hard Arsenal fan…and when it comes to football or defending Wenger’s philosophy..i can indulge in a debate with everyone :).Such a die-hard fan that each time I walk into office on Monday morning…my colleagues (who don’t follow football) can tell whether Arsenal has won or lost the match.

    My best memory has to be the first leg of this year’s Arsenal Barcelona match up. I had built up the match to such an extent that a majority of my colleagues (who don’t follow football at all but are total cricket fans) decided to come and watch the match with me. With the match being telecast at 00:30 hours and finishing at 02:30 hours…and with work the next day..you can imagine how much i must have hyped up the match for the other 7-8 cricket lovers to join me to watch a football match at that unearthly hour. And yes…what a first leg it was…when Arsenal equalised at 2:2..the way we celebrated we must have woken up half the neighbourhood :).

    Cheers,

  • samuel

    arsenal from afar.me my father and my younger brother who is hoping to star for arsenal are stunch fans .We go to viewing centre to watch matches and i get to see more arsenal supporters we have great supporters here

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Thanks ,Tony,for taking the initiative to start the ball rolling – this will make it easier for us fans worlwide to contact and interreact with each other.There is a sizeable Arsenal following here in Malaysia ,but I don’t follow any local blogs nor am I a member of any local Arsenal fanclub.I know that there is a fan club (with a club house I think)in the capital ,Kuala Lumpur ,who meet everyweekend to watch the live games and have extended open invatations to all fans to join them.I suppose they will be getting in touch with you soon.
    As for me I will be contacting Walter shortly to confirm my participation in this excellent plan.Cheers!

  • Jonny

    Tim – you’re a hero.

    Simple as.

  • Tony,

    I, on behalf of my friends here, can’t thank you enough for your initiative first, & then your support towards our love for Arsenal.

    It goes without saying that ‘Untold Arsenal’ is by far the most intellectual blog on our favorite club, & your spearheading the Arsenal Worldwide movement, will really add credo to the same.

    I wish it becomes a reality very soon, so that my fellow bloggers from world over can voice their angst in equanimity.

    Keep Gunning everyone, & thanks again for all the love.

  • walter

    Just to let you know that I hope we can send a mail to the people who want to join this weekend with some more details on how things are going.

  • As someone who is behind this idea I have question for all of you. Its about design.
    This is design we are working on for a year, and my idea was to do Arsenal Worldwide same way. As magazine which can be read online, and also downloadable in PDF format.

    This is example how we do it (don’t worry if you don’t understand word, Arsenal Worldwide should be in English)

    http://www.arsenal-bih.com/gt-mgazin/1472.html

    But I have to admit one thing, even I support Arsene in what ever he do, and believe he is best thing which happened to us in last 50 years, I don’t want Arsenal Worldwide to be something which is orientated on one group of supporters.
    Rather to be place where we all will be welcome in supporting our team and where we can share experiences and where all Gooners around world will get their “place” and no one will be forgotten (As Bosnian Gooners are in Tony’s article behind whole story).

  • walter

    For those fans from the USA I just want to inform you that I have sent an email to the general email address in the USA? but every city can join on his own I think in this project as I have seen that there are a lot of city’s who have their own fans.

  • walter

    I must underline what Armin said and confirm the fact that without the Bosnian Gooners the idea of Arsenal Worldwide never would have seen daylight.
    It was Armin who came up with the idea to me and I immediatly jumped on the idea as I saw it as a great idea.
    I think the fact that it is mostly me that is in touch with Tony on this project that he mentions me and the Arsenal Benelux supporters more.
    But a lot of the credit must go to Armin and the Bosnian Gooners. And I like the look of the Bosnian magazine even if I can’t understand it.

  • critic

    WOW…….

  • Gennie

    Tony, Walter, and Armin I salute you. It is, as everybody has commented, a fantastic idea. I just have one request, particularly because Armin has stated categorically that Arsenal Worldwide will be in English, which I have no problem with, and it is totally logical. I would say this is fine for starters. But since this is a global thing, and Arsenal is loved by many throughout the globe, and the globe people are of many languages, I suggest that, where possible, translations into several major regional (at least) languages, be made available. This would allow the Arsenal lovers to follow their beloved club wherever they can access the www. I am sure in this present day and time, there are many people who are multilingual and can translate for their fellow gooners everywhere. The Google can easily be used to effect this. For people here in Africa, and I believe many other places, English usually is a third, if not second, language. Even worse, many people here, can only dream about seeing Arsenal live, I mean at their home turf (The Home of Football), or anywhere in the Uk or Europe. We find, even seeing live matches on the tele sometimes difficult; Yes, it has improved tremendously over the last five years. All the best to Imogen, Tony. You will note, this is my first appearance here, but have followed this blog for sometime now, I think about just over a year. And I love it, this and Stone Cold Arsenal.

  • Lanre

    Walter, i do hope u have not 4gotten us here.

  • walter

    Lanre, you can be sure you are in my mailing list and you will receive more info in he coming days.

  • walter

    Gennie, I think this would be a big operation to do. But I think it is something we should keep in mind. I will anyway.
    Do you have any suggestions in which languages this should/could be translated ?

  • Gennie

    @Walter, Well, to begin with, in Europe obviously most national languages which would mean Dutch, Flemish, Germany, Russian etc. In Asia, Arabic, Hindu or is it Urdu? Chinese, Japanese, Cantonese etc. Here in Africa, Swahili for East and Central Africa, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Zulu, and Khoisa for Southern Africa, Lingala – Central Africa etc. I am sure there are some languages in West Africa which are spoken by a large majority. However, it does not have to start all at the same time, like you said, it has to go step by step as Arsenal lovers form clubs in each country / region. Those who understand English, French, Dutch, etc would then produce a version in the language of the country or region. That way we will all keep abreast of the events shaping our Arsenal.

  • I agree with Genie here. Translating the entire thing in various other languages, will give the project a worldwide penetration, as it’s name demands.

    Likes of French, Russian, Mandarin, Latin & Hindi (& not ‘Hindu’ as you mentioned above!), would cover huge stretches.

    Waiting for further updates Walter.

  • walter

    Intresting thoughts. I must say I am not opposed to it in anyway.
    The problem would be to find people who can translate it in those languages. I could do it in Dutch/Flemish but even if I can also speak French and German I would not be able to translate it completely in those languages.

    But we could ask for people who are willing to translate it in to their own language and then have it on the site also. We could put a request in that way on the website. But I don’t know how if this is possible technical ? I can work on my computer and put words after each other to create sentences but must admit that apart from that my knowledge of how websites work is very limited.

    But I will keep this in mind when things are coming near to the final magazine and certainly for the future.

  • Hi Tony,
    I am from Senegal and I have been following Arsenal for more than a decade.
    The way I see it is simple. Those who support the club from far away really love the club. Those in North London also do love the club but mainly because they have less choice.
    It’s like a modern civilization where you can a partner, fall in with him/her and decide to get married while the other one is in an archaic world where you would given a partner whom you will get used to and up loving for some reason.
    Not saying the love from the supporters far away is always stronger but it is usually very deep.
    Just looking at the D&G brigade show you that a lot of foreign supporters have more patience and affection towards the team and the staff.
    While in Japan I have a lady that was a Southampton season ticket holder she was amazed with the knowledge and affection I had for the mighty gunners while never having been in England let alone North London.
    The worst thing is w you can even ending up feeling guilty for the misfortunes of your team.
    I remember in 2006, I became almost crazy practicing what could be described as rituals everytime we had a CL game. From the clothes I would wear, to the sofa where I would sit everything was the same for every game. And just at the final I had to travel from Japan to South Africa and we lost I fell guilty and disgusted not at the referee, or TH14 or anybody but myself. And this year the same happened again in Barcelona game which found me travelling in Bamako (Mali), you can imagine how mad I was. This, to me, is what being a fan is all about. If if you cannot get linked somehow with the club and take a blame as well as a glory from the results business why borther.

  • I cannot edit the comment I just made but there a lot of mistyping I hope people could understand whant I meant like (end up, loving, have met a lady…).
    To Walter, I could help translating in French and in Japanese.

  • Hello there

    I wonder whether any other East Midlands based Arsenal supporters would be interested in ‘An Evening with Bob Wilson’ at Stubton Hall on Fri 15th March. This is a rare opportunity to hear the legendary Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper and TV presenter share stories about his footballing and broadcasting life in the style of an after dinner speech. Stubton Hall is in a glorious setting on the Lincs/Notts border NG23 5DD. Tickets are £25 each, including food. Funds raised will help support a community group opposing an industrial wind farm in the locality. Many thanks.