Arsenal and India: all you never knew

By 11 Gunners

When David Beckham curled one of his trademark free kicks at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, little he would have known that a nation was awakening into a sporting renaissance of sorts.

The day was 18th August and the year was 2001, when Premier League games were being aired Live for the first time in the Indian Sub-Continent. It triggered a paradigm shift in the way Sports and Football in particular was followed in these lands.

Cricket had always been the mainstay for the Indian audience, and you cannot argue with that considering the heritage we have inherited. Football’s domain, till then had been restricted to its showcase event, The World Cup. When the Premier League flooded the Indian market, its colors, vibrancy, fervor and passion caught the eye of one and all including a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers in the city of Patna.

Yes, I am referring to Us, the founders of 11Gunners. Mere students, (to-be-engineers precisely), the impact the Premier League had on us grew meteorically and soon our lives became synonymous with the League and to be more exact, Arsenal. Their fluid and pacy style of attacking football had caught our rapt attention and we knew of nothing else that could entertain us for 90 minutes the way Arsenal could.

And since then, following Arsenal has transformed from being a hobby, to a passion to a ritual. Even today, no matter where we are or what we are doing, we always strive to make arrangements to follow the game either on text or tube, through the internet, television or even a cell phone for that matter.

Simply put, when Arsenal take the field, everything else in life takes a backseat. The journey of being an Arsenal fan has indeed been a gratifying experience right from the glory days of the ‘Henry- Bergkamp’ era to this current crop of ‘Cesc-led’ world beating youngsters.

People ask for reasons which make us so passionate about a foreign club from a foreign land. They ask for our reasons. Well the reasons may vary for starters.

For a Premiership viewer who watches every game from another Continent, it may be the finesse with which the boys pass the ball, and for the Old Granny who lives alone in a one-room dingy in Holloway, it may be the fervour created in the ‘Herbert Chapman Era’ which still refuses to die. The ‘Invincible’ team, Michael Thomas’ last gasp goal at Anfield ‘89, the touch of class by the ‘Iceman’, or Cliff Bastin’s screamer, they may all be reasons.

On a personal note, we worship the ground where Arsene Wenger walks, we rejoiced when Thierry Henry ran through the defences in Santiago Bernabeau, our eyes went moist in unison when Belleti ended the hopes of ruling Europe. Oh, and we were talking reasons, were we not?

We cannot reason for why we are worshippers of the sacred crest of Arsenal, why we exulted with joy when Van Persie dances past defences in the blink of an eye, why we feel a serene satisfaction when Cesc Fabregas opens up an entire array of defenders with a silken pass, or why we feel a sense of pride when Andrei Arshavin thunders one past the goalkeeper.

These are feelings that transcend words. They are our reasons. Passion knows no boundaries and for us the image of Arsenal Football Club symbolizes exactly that.

There is no cogent explanation for the anxiety we felt when Juan Roman Riquleme has stepped up for the penalty or the sumptuous celebrations that followed Jens Lehmann’s save of that one. We cannot explain why our heartbeats rose when Arsenal trailed Leicester at half time on the final day of that memorable season or why we felt so proud when Patrick Vieira waved the trophy around Highbury and the commentator said:- “The Title and a place in History belongs to Arsenal”!

The history drives us on, the smell of air in Ashburton Grove is magical – almost to mythical dimensions, the Emirates stands like the colosseum of North London, and we know how to play football – the ‘Beautiful Game’. Pass and pass and pass – ‘We Pass Life‘ into Football!

And it is not just us; the other big guns of the Premier League namely Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea have a huge and dedicated fan base of their own that follow their club with an undying passion and loyalty. In fact this conflict of interest regularly ignites heated arguments and debates as to who is the best amongst equals. A debate which, we are sure shall continue till the end of time. In general, The Premier League has made massive inroads into the Indian market and a sight of enthusiasts donning their respective club colours in the form of Jerseys, Caps and other accessories, is very common these days. Several kids now prefer playing football over cricket, much to the surprise of the older generation.

The one’s who have chewed on Cricket all their lives. It’s true that the faithful support is constrained to the big four of the Premier League but one believes that clubs like Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa need to prove themselves on the bigger platform before they can make their way into the hearts of the Indian masses.

Coming to the Domestic front, the progress of our own League has been tardy to say the least. Yes, we do have one! The National Football League, which was recently restructured and is now called the I-League. This seems to be an initiative in the right direction with aims to induce more Professionalism. And with one eye on the future, each team is required to maintain an Under-19 development squad.

Yet in all regards, be in terms of Quality, Infrastructure or Investment, we are light-years behind European Football. People are passionate about the regional clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers but it is majorly restricted to the locales these clubs hail from. Primarily West Bengal, Goa and pockets of Kerela, have been dominant but the rest of the country prefers to remain ignorant. One cannot blame them.

The dearth of proper Training Academies, World Class Infrastructure, Sponsorship and Government backing, has affected the progress at large. Our National Team has failed to impress at the bigger stage and lies 138th in the Fifa rankings. Imagine, a Billion people and a rank that poor. The reason is simple:- We haven’t given the sport the attention it deserved and hence have suffered, both in terms of Technical Quality and Physical Prowess, which happen to be a minimum pre-requisite in today’s competitive game.

The only instance we qualified for the World Cup finals was way back in 1950, and had to pull out of it because our players could not comply with FIFA’s demand that all players should be wearing football boots! That event is now History and rationally speaking, it seems unlikely that we will ever get to see the Indian National team earn a place in the biggest extravaganza of the ‘Beautiful Game’.

Not in the near future atleast. Although we did finish 4th in the Melbourne Olympics in ’56 and also won Gold in the ’51 and ’62 Asian Games, the scene now is far from picture perfect.

The change required to overhaul the system needs to transpire at the very grass root level. The initiative needs to be a collaborative one, both from the Indian Football Federation and the top notch European clubs who need to look beyond the potential market that we offer. Training academies set up with the mentorship of personnel from these big clubs can go a long way in changing the current scenario. We have produced quality players in the past, and no doubts why we can’t do that again. The talent is very much there, waiting to get nurtured and be in headed the right direction to produce the goods at the biggest stage, time after another.

There is hope, hope that someday an Indian will wear the hallowed No.14@the Emirates or someday the Indian National Anthem will electrify and reverberate the atmosphere of the World Cup Finals. Hope, that what we live on. For now, being a Gooner is good enough! Keep Gunning everyone..

11Gunners: The Unofficial Arsenal FC Blog And News


For details of MAKING THE ARSENAL – the novel about Arsenal in 1910 please visit We are now shipping world-wide, and postage prices for across the world are given on our web site.   Subscribers to the Arsenal Independent Supporters Assn newsletter should have received further details in this week’s email.

51 Replies to “Arsenal and India: all you never knew”

  1. Great read this. It gives a bright line of sunshine on a bad day.
    The feeling when losing a game like today is somewhat lighter when you know you are not alone in defeat.
    Wish you all the best Indian Gunners.

  2. Really superb!!!
    I feel proud to read this article as an Indian and a Gooner. I wish this time Gunners get a silwerware and gooners in India keep supporting Arsenal and keep rocking 🙂

  3. arsenal r very huge here in india and i dont know whether people in uk know that or not but what iritates me most is that some of new followers here begin to support chelsea thinking how big club they r but when they realize after sometime what a small and tiny that club is with disgraceful history and fanbase its too late !!

  4. But India will come back to the international stage, sooner than later. It is a sleeping giant and will wake up 1 day.
    We wait for that day with bated breath. Till then..
    keep gunning…


    Really? I’m constantly annoyed by the fact that everyone around me supports ManUtd or Chelsea.

  6. its proud to be a arsenal indian… INDIA needs to develop the game rapidly in terms of quality and stadiums.. live for arsenal..die for arsenal.. my theme..

  7. I appeal u all 2 come be a part of this small initiative that we are taking for gooners in India.
    For Arsenal, For India…

  8. This article gave me goosebumps right from the very first line of it. Every cell of mine felt a GOONER in it. I truly feel the way Arsenal play is something light years better than others. India LOVES ARSENAL!! Yes they will. As I see, we are a intellectually better followers than the rest, we see the quality in Arsenal, the game in it, the flow it has, the opportunity we create in a given spec. One fine day this solemn truth will be realised by everyone. We don’t have the European glory yet nor the number of titles Manutd or liverpool have won. But a day we surpass all of them and make HISTORY isn’t far away. In ARSENE WE TRUST.

  9. spot on mate

    i can totally relate to this article

    man utd may be having biggest fan base in India but arsenl has the most loyal fan base in India.U can always an arsenal fan debating or fighting with a gang of man u fans

    man u and le groove s**ks

  10. I started following Arsenal since wenger in charge as manager. I used to be only Arsenal fan among our friends. Due to like for my dutch football, I naturally liked Arsenal.

    Now almost after 14 years it become a ritual. I wait all week for match day.


  11. I come from a multi-cultural city and the indians here are by far the best dribblers i’ve seen. And the story about 1950 world cup reminds me of this wizzard indian boy i played with.. when he gets angry he takes off his shoes and dribbles the entire team to score.

  12. If there is any chance of Football growing further in world, India is the next big step…Slowly but surely the Footy-fever has started catching up on Indian Minds…When I first started watching the game, it was 2002-03 season end when we came 2nd to Manu…the day I saw a team play in RED-WHITE, my football world was Arsenal…I couldn’t and still can’t think of a way of playing the game other than the Gunner-Way..And this is the situation with millions of young Indians..they are getting the feeling that this is the way football is played…

  13. Hi there! This article sums up the feelings of every football fan in India. The game is on the rise here. Cricket in India gained tremendous popularity only after the win at 1983 World Cup. It makes me think. What if the Indian football team somehow managed to attend the 1950 WC? The situation would have been completely different. We might have been a footballing super power by now. 🙂

  14. Awesome stuff and a great read…the best gooner blog link by far i must say…anywaz coming from Bombay the EPL craze has reached new heights..i see kids preferring to play football more often…on small streets with make shift goal posts football especially the english league i guess has more fanbase than England…considering we have 20 million odd denizens in bombay alone…
    although united, loserpool, chelsea and arsenal are major teams being followed here, the likes of manshitty, spurs are also catching up…and well many guys now a days plan to save up money so that they can fly to london and catch a game of football…
    But one thing I must say, for a overseas fan to come down to england and watch a match is big pain in the experience last december when i came to london expecting to catch the Arsenal Wigan game almost went to doldrums…i learnt that you need to have a membership card to book tickets…i believe this is not the case in spain and italy where I was able to book tickets directly a week before the game…the entire process of owning a membership card booking tickets through an online process makes it extremely difficult for fans coming from several thousand miles abroad…
    anywaz i hope dat changes soon….

  15. Grt read .. Felt proud to be a Indian Gooner aftr readin this article .. Also i accept wat ‘India loves Arsenal’ said .. Everyone thinks here tat Man utd n Chelsea r the bigger clubs .. Because they’ve some of the best players in the world .. They shud see the reality tat we play the best football in the world .. However i can assure many ppl have started takin note of our game n Gunners fan base in India is growin in recent years .. If we win a title it will further add to us getting recognition .. Anyway don worry abt titles, we jus love the way we play .. All gunners everywhere in the world, take note we’re there in India .. Go Gunners make us proud !! 🙂

  16. Also i’d like to stress tat aftr Man utd, Arsenal is the most supported team in India .. But i hate chelsea n liverpool cumin anywere near us .. Tat shud not happen n hope we even bettr Man utd in the cuming years .. N lol, If u ask abt Tottenham , ppl here will say “Tottenham wat ?!?!” 😛 😀

  17. I have rarely read such an outstanding Article. I not only love Arsenal, I eat Arsenal, I drink arsenal. The lines “following Arsenal has transformed from being a hobby, to a passion to a ritual” are worth mentioning. I am a man of 49 years old. Since childhood I developed strongest passion for Eastbengal Club, Kolkata and Brazil. I am a member of Eastbengal club till date and in World Cup I blindly support Brazil along with 80% kolkatans. But slowly2 Arsenal has taken the front seat along with Eastbengal (my root). This year I badly want Arsenal to win a trophy but unfortunately AW is extremely adament. This team needs just 2-3 additons of world class players. I visit Arsenal’s website twice regularly. It has become my habit. I am yet to digest yesterday’s shock defeat. Miracles do happen and we will beat Chelsea convincingly.

  18. 11 Gunners: You do know how to cheer despondent souls. Cheers to you, to you and to you. Keep the Gunning barrel loaded. At the Arsenal, we the true fanbase –

    “It is not the direness of falling that scares Us;
    But the lethargy of remise.
    Lo! When we fall, we simply must rise higher;
    Like the Eagle with all its majesty in flight;
    Or the Stealth Fighter Jets with its aerodynamism.
    For we are The Arsenal!!!”

    Keep the faith, Gunners! Keep the faith!!

  19. Great article. It really sums up an Indian gooner. I am also from Patna and started watching european club football at the same time but never thought that there can be such a group of gooners in my home town. Its really a very refreshing feeling and it fills me with enthusiasm again after tnat flat display yesterday.

  20. Amazing! It’s really great seeing fellow Indian Arsenal fans here! A very nice blog post too….hope our team beats Liege and Chelsea :-D. You guys might wanna check out the Arsenal FC Community (no. 4553) on Orkut. Full of dedicated Gunner fans…mainly Indian and Pakistani.

  21. Football is on a rise in India and very soon, given the passion you guys are showing, we shall reach there. Amen. Great article btw.

  22. First of all, Thank you so much Tony.
    And now another Big Big Thanks to all the fellow Gooners, both from India and Abroad, who have showered praises on our effort. Guys this won’t be forgotten and will only spur us to do more.
    Keep Gunning for now..

  23. hey dis s an nice article. football fire started to spread already in india. Arsenal playing, played and will play a key role in tat.come on you young guns. do get a trophy dis season.

  24. Its heartening to see the response to this fine article about Arsenal in India.35 years ago ,as medical students in India ,my friends and I had great difficulty following the English Leagues.There were no newspaper or magazine coverage of English football nor was there tv in our region.The locals did not play nor follow the game .Our only contact with the sport was the BBC world service Saturday coverage which was quite extensive [we would listen to all the final results ie all 4 English divisions and both Scottish divisions].My knowledge of Arsenal facts and figures from 1975 to 1984 are vague at best.Now the Indians knowledge of English football is very impressive.They stunned a few former Premier League players when they took part in a regional football quiz show held in Singapore a few years ago.

  25. I never knew that my friend can write down his feelings abt our religion (ARSENAL) in such a beautiful way. Every word of this article touches my soul. It makes me realise that how much we are influenced by our religion.

    There are days when we feel sad and disappointed when the gunners dont fire. But then that doesnt means that we will stop worshipping it.

    We in India follow EPL (for me its ARSENAL) as much as people in LONDON do. I have a dream that when I start earning, the first thing I am gonna do is to buy an original ARSENAL jersey. 🙂 🙂 It may be a small thing for a fan in UK, but I bet it means a lot to an INDIAN..

    Three cheers for the Gooners in INDIA…

  26. Well Brickfield I know what you mean. Since 1979 I am a fan and even if I live only some 340 km (over the roads) from the Emirates or Highbury, in those days to follow the Arsenal was as difficult as it was in India I guess.
    The times have changed, thanks God.

  27. football WAS and still is BIG in India/West Bengal; to those folks saying cricket is more popular, more people watch local footie matches than any local cricket match; local derby between MohunBagan and EastBengal registered 100k+ attendance in Kolkata; even before the ESPN/StarSports era, the good old state run TV [yes Doordarshan, DD] used to show CL and UEFA matches. I remember staying awake till the wee hours to catch Cruyuff’s Barca winning the CL[couple of goals by Romario?] for the first time;

    After the hype by the local media that football is played by 4 teams in UK and 2 teams in Spain, it has become mainstream across India. Truth be told, Arsenal was never heard of in these shores before the AW era; in the early 90s there was program in the local TV [im from Bengal] which showed highlights of matches from the top European leagues — so recent viewers like me were aware of Liverpool, Manure but not Arsenal; aware of PSV [they toured India during that time as well], AJAX, Parma, Milan clubs, Juve, Lazio, Sampdoria [well performing those days], Careca-Maradona team [:( forgot the team name], but not Arsenal. AW-Henry-DB10-Pires [no1 mentions Pires] sold Arsenal to India and as you see it sells well.

    Unfortunately, it is the manure supporting c*nts who are the majority here, followed by Chelski and Arsenal.

  28. Great article Mayank! I’m from Bombay (Mumbai if you insist) & have seen the 11Gunners website, & must say it’s encouraging to see more supporters of Arsenal coming from India!

  29. You were quite sarcastic on saying that we are light years behind european elites and no chance to qualify for WC in coming years. Let me tell you one thing that the passion with which you followed Arsenal or any other big european elite has built themselves from scratch. And their loyal fans have been with them in those many years even when they were playing four divisions down. Just assume if we swap Arsenal squad with spurs squad then you won’t be following Arsenal anymore. Actually you don’t like that club as much you like ideology of Arsene Wenger and like Henry, Cesc etc.

    I also watch Arsenal and clearly know the difference between a fan of a club and of individuals. 90% of the people don’t realise this little thing.

    As far as the Indian football is concerned you have to support your clubs and national even in lows and even though they are not so attractive to watch and tell them hey we 115 crore are standing by you just play your game. Then you will see change will happen.

    Remember : THE BALL IS ROUND!

  30. hey,

    im 29, followed arsenal ever since 1995.

    awesome article guys. but one small correction i remember seeing the 1999-00 season arsenal manutd match in which henry scored with the backside to the goal the kick over barthez. i dont remember exacly but i guess ive seen live games on espn as early as 1998. i started following arsenal from 1995, as my fav player DB10 landed at arsenal. i used to read it thru our local mallu newspaper mathrubhumi and got hooked on ever since 1998 whn i c’d see the matches.

    i remember those days there were only arsenal and manu fans and a few guys supporting chelsea coz of zola. nowdays i find that a lot more ppl follow the classless chavs…

  31. @India Loves Arsenal
    You can’t be more right mate. You are spot-on with the ‘realization’ part!

    @Indian Gooner
    Arsenal fans in India are fiercely Loyal, as you rightly put. Lack of Silverware has not deterred us one bit in supporting the lads. Wonder what do other fans have to say on the same!

    @Song Dynasty
    Reminds me of Dhyanchand. Although a Hockey player, his brilliance was unmatched.
    Like the player you are referring to, many guys back home have the flair and a bagful of skills. What we lose out on, though, is lack of upper body strength. If proper training & diet techniques are introduced, I’m pretty confident, your sighting Indian kids running rings around defenders would be more oft! Amen to that!

  32. @Amit
    Nice observations mate. Hope you guys in Bombay warm up to 11Gunners here on!
    The bit about getting confirmed tickets@the Emirates, well its True. I know! Things should change given the huge fan base Arsenal now has in the Indian Sub-Continent.

    We have arrived for sure baby. Go Gunners..
    PS: I reiterate: “Totter-Scum WHO!?”

    Arsenal under the Professor, has flair in equanimity with the Brazilians. No two doubts about that.
    Calcutta is football-crazy and so are we. Would love it if you spread the word around for us Manas.

  33. @LRV
    I second your lyrical thoughts. Big Time. We are The Arsenal, indeed.

    @Gooner Ji
    Patna rocks. India rocks. Arsenal rocks.

    35 years back? that’s Stone Age to me! Hats off to you guys for being the torch-bearer’s of the Gooner Movement in India for so long. Your passion transcends time, in the real sense!

  34. @Coconut
    The East Bengal- Mohun Bagan derby is indeed one of the most widely attended duels in world football. More than a lac people throng the Salt Lake stadium time after another. So to say football is a minor sport here, would be a gross understatement.

    Sorry if you got offended buddy. The intention of mentioning not-so good things about Indian football was that we infact are eons behind the European powerhouses. But hope, as they say, is a very good thing. Given the right back-up, I’m counting India featuring in the 2018 WC, by when OUR GENERATION would have reached its peak.

    You are partially right here. Games were shown live even before the date we mentioned, but Prime Time coverage of EPL in India, began only in ’01. Then on, all the games were shown on the network, live or deferred. And I suppose, that made the difference.

  35. @Tazz-just to clarify ,we were non-resident Indians from Malaysia and South Africa who loved the English game and tried to follow it the best way we could.We were fans of Arsenal ,Man Utd[who were more of a cup side then]and Spurs who hated Leeds and Liverpool[the dorminant sides then].The students introduced the game to the locals who inturn got addicted to it and would turn out in thousands for collage games.I’m sure we must have inspired many kids to become fans of football.

  36. All this Arsenal craze, Arsenal rocks and blah blah … is simply hype; most people will swap their CESC-4 Arsenal shirts for other clubs’ CESC-TBA shirts in no time; I bet my this month’s salary if any of the Indians who commented here know what their LOCAL CLUBS/DERBIES are …

    @Tazz : can you share what you are smoking? India for 2018 WC — have you EVER seen two Indian clubs playing … the clubs are better than the National team thanks to the foreigners and the club level football is light years behind the top Asian standards. Are you even a real person or a spam bot which is looking at the posts here and replying by referring the wiki?

  37. @migratory coconut- Dude it seems to me that you r a little too full of yourself. You need to open your mind just a little bit more. We are not a bunch of novices who were hoodwinked into loving Arsenal. As we explained in the article, we derive a serene satisfaction from seeing the Gunners play.
    As for the 2018 WC is concerned, it was a statement of hope rather than fact and as far as I know, there is no problem in living on hope.

  38. mr nut head coconut…

    ive been following arsenal for 14 years, so pls dont mock my or any other gooners passion or dedication to the club… and moreover i was a huge fan of my local club SBT in the I league and used to see all the home matches in the top tier until they got relegated. i dont support any other indian club not even kerala clubs like fc cochin or viva kerala. i have spent enough and more money on arsenal mechandices and that too original nike ones.

    india to the WC2018 is a distant proposition but remember we had beat UAE in the world cup qualification round a few years back, goal scored by abdul hakkim of SBT. what tazz was reffering to was optimistic and im sure i’ll see india in a world cup before i die. im 28 now

  39. @Coconut
    No offense mate, but Yes, we have been to Local games here in India. And when I said India for WC ’18, I meant qualifying, and not winning it all together. C’mon, likes of Bhutia & Chhetri are good enough to inspire the next generation of players. With the exposure of the European game now more than ever, lets not doubt our chances.
    You have to believe to achieve.
    Aim for ’18, and we’ll surely get there by ’22, ’26..
    DREAM ON guys..

  40. @Tazz

    I am not against the fact that you people follow certain foreign club, but my point is if you follow Arsenal then learn from them and we should translate that passion to our clubs and in India we can built clubs like of Arsenal, Barca etc. So that fans don’t have to limit themselves to T.V they can actually go and watch their hometown clubs.

  41. @Tazz

    I am not against the fact that you people follow certain foreign club, but my point is if you follow Arsenal then learn from them and we should tranmit that passion to our clubs and in India we can built clubs like of Arsenal, Barca etc. So that fans don’t have to limit themselves to T.V they can actually go and watch their hometown clubs.

  42. @JediKnut
    glad to know that u liked the article. the response has been overwhelming.
    I just want to add that this article has been written by Arup aka The Gooner and not me. And he does write some awesome stuff

    PS:Thank U for ur appreciation. I don’t have words to describe my feelings…
    Go Gunners & Come on India…

  43. Brilliantly written, has evoked all the passion from within…i am going to extra charged for the weekend game after this read..knowing there are plenty of “In Arsene we Trust”faithful watching not too far away. gooner forever..

Comments are closed.