Supporting Arsenal from Kosovo; how overseas supporters choose their club


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By Darsei Canhasi


A Story of supporting Arsenal

After the war in 1999 in Kosovo, people wanted joy in order to forget their saddest moments of their lives.

We found that joy in many different ways – for me it came with the EURO 2000 tournament.  It was the first major competition that I watched, and the outcome was clear: France were dominant, not only by winning the competition but for through their attractive way of playing.

The Public Television service in Kosovo started broadcasting Premier League for the first time in the 2001/2002 season, and as a result there are two events that were crucial for me becoming a Gooner.   First, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, and Sylvian Wiltord were pivotal in France success in EURO 2000, and second the Premier League on Public Television in 2001.

There were other leagues being shown on TV such as Serie A and so there was an emphasis on the international scene – especially as the national football league was poor and still is nowadays.  So the emphasise for us is on the international scene.

However, the game against Manchester United on November 5 was the decisive moment. A four nil win and such a performance that I knew I was looking in a team that I would spend the rest of my life cheering for.

It took 8 years for my story of supporting Arsenal reached its peak. I spent a night in London as part of my trip to the United States. I arrived at Heathrow in the late evening hours, and spent the night in a Hotel at the airport. The next day I had the flight to Boston at 2 PM, which meant that I had to wake up at 6 AM to make a visit to the city – or rather to go to the North part of the London.

So, I took the Underground and arrived at the place I had seen on the TV hundreds of time: The Highbury Square. Then I approached Emirates Stadium, and prepared myself for a tour in the stadium. This was the moment when I experienced one of the saddest feeling ever: the women working at the Stadium told me that on that day the tour was fully booked from a school, therefore there was no chance of me entering the stadium. I tried to convince her to make an exception; however she was strict and determined to follow the rules. Her face has been locked in my brain ever since. This occurrence makes the 27th May of 2009 the saddest and the happiest day of my life at the same time.

Television is the invention that enables me (thereof international fans) watch football. In 2001, the Internet was not so widespread in Kosovo and I remember when I used to go in an internet café every August and print the seasonal fixture list. It seems as today the place where I used to keep my beloved printed page and looked at it again and again throughout the season.

Problems such as changing fixture dates where irrelevant during that time; the majority of the dates stood as they were. Today the situation is different, and internet is available as in any other country. Facebook is a social network that gathers a lot of Arsenal fans together with groups of Arsenal with up to 50k people discussion and sharing stuff with each other.

The significance of major events

Newcomers in the Football World from a country such as Kosovo usually support teams such as Barcelona. The Golden Generation of Barca since the Ronaldinho era has attracted many people who recently started watching football. It is funny when I tell them about the Invincibles of Arsenal as most of them seem not to care much about it. Additionally, a recent trend caused a cultural shift in the country: women started to have their own supporters’ clubs, and thus the number of football fans increased rapidly.     In this they were following the men: if you watch football, you must have a supporters’ club.

Another interesting thing is that the majority of the fans who support let’s say a club from England support the national team of England as well. Probably this is a cultural entity and the club and the country seem to go as a joint-package.

Istanbul , where Liverpool’s comeback made many people to start supporting them. Therefore, Liverpool and Barcelona arguably have the most fans in Kosovo. It is remarkable to realize that events such as Ronaldinho-era, Isbanbul 2005 Champions League final, and even Arsenal comeback against Barcelona last year are events that shape the fans perception towards certain clubs.

International Fans

What makes the International Fans different is the ability to choose which club they want to support. Unlike most local fans who are “born to support a club” (meaning that they live in the area from where their club is located), international fans can pick the club they want from a variety of teams worldwide.

As such, from this perspective, foreign fans could be considered as a bit more distinct, even though I would never question the commitment that local fans have by attending the Stadium and creating the atmosphere. On the other hand, I am glad that Arsenal started to perform their pre-season tours outside Europe. This is a good start for the club to adapt to the Globalization trends, even though much more can be done (such as various organizing competitions).

Finally, I would take the opportunity to thank Tony and Untold Arsenal for letting me express some my thoughts. It highlights the effort that the Arsenal Community puts towards helping one another.

You can follow me on Twitter @darseic

Come on You Gunners!!


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30 Replies to “Supporting Arsenal from Kosovo; how overseas supporters choose their club”

  1. A fascinating insight into how football and particularly Arsenal is seen by overseas fans.

    Your grasp of English is excellent too. I hope you get the opportunity to visit the Emirates in the future, if you have not done so yet. You will not be disappointed.

    Thank you for your article! 🙂

  2. Wow! Great article! and a great coincidence that it was the same match that converted me into an Arsenal fan!
    I used to watch football but did not support any team but what made me a gooner was the type of football that Arsenal played!

    A gooner from Afghanistan! Yes there are plenty of Arsenal faithfuls even here in Afghanistan!

    Long live Arsenal

  3. Hi Darsei,

    This is a beautiful piece. The war in Kosovo must have been really hard. We only got to read and see pics in the newspapers back then and even then it was gut wrenching.
    It is wonderful to see that Arsenal has given you so much joy.
    You are right as to how people start following clubs abroad. This was before the advent of live league coverage abroad. Since we only saw international matches, we would have certain favourites amongst the players. Then we would find that he would play for a particular club.
    For me that player was Dennis Bergkamp.

  4. Very humbling to read of the efforts overseas fans make to follow their chosen team. They cannot attend matches in person, yet their support is as valueable to our Club as those who have season tickets at the Emirates. 😆

  5. What a good way to love the Arsenal, the best thing in supporting Arsenal that they have a lot of overseas fans & all of them just don’t support the club for trophy, they admire the team, admire the logo of cannon on the Arsenal shirts. That explain the love between fans and the club.
    A Lot of other fans change their favorite team if they go trophy less for year or 2 year but what is the best in Arsenal fans, the support the manger, support the players & motivate them.
    I know hoe the media effect fans to support the media Favorite teams, lets say about what happen to fans in my country “Kuwait”:
    the big 2 broadcast are 2 “Abu Dhabi” & “Al-jazeera sport”.
    Abu Dhabi just have the English primer league and guess what their owner are the same of Man City. Al-Jazeera Sport owns all the other competitions include the carling and FA cup & they praise the team like Barcelona, Real Madrid & AC Milan.
    I have been supporting the Arsenal since 1996 and the reason is how David Seaman was brilliant in Euro 1996.
    It took me to dream for 13 years to visit the Arsenal Stadium and it was one of the best day of my life to visit the Arsenal, I hope in one day you will visit the Emirates Stadium.

  6. Hi, I’m from Kosovo and I follow this blog closely, I did not expect seeing something like this here, but it kind of made my day. 🙂

    It’s really hard for us to come to Emirates to watch a game, because first, it’s somewhat far and costs a lot, especially for us, and second, we’re not in the Euro Zone and getting visa and stuff is the other problem. – But that does not stop us from supporting Arsenal, or any other club.

    Have a nice day. 😀

  7. Nice article Darsei, it is always nice to hear people’s perspective! In India too people support quite a few clubs of Europe and I agree with your assertion that International fans have different reasons to support a club since an Emirates is far away from my place as a Nou Camp or San Siro! What got me going about Arsenal was the way they would raid the opposition’s goal! I had never seen something like that as I had maintained my neutrality (though would admit that I hated ManU with all my guts…their arrogance is written all over their faces and they always have a bunch of sissy strikers in their team)….and I fell in love with Arsenal! And the more I read about the club the more I started liking it…it makes you one of it’s own! Like this blog…I have not met Tony, Walter, Shard, Mandy, Arvind and so many others but they are people I know!

  8. Hahahahahah, Invincible Arsenal. The record will be broken by Arsenal again. i wish i see 76 games unbeaten. Long live gooners

  9. @Darsei:

    I missed the Emirates tour as well, just before flying out, so I can definitely relate to you there. What did you think of Boston?

    The convergence of international opinion on this blog absolutely staggers me at times, leaving me short of comment, as I am now. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Thank you for writing this article, Darsei.

  10. @Darsei:

    I’m sorry, thinking about the war situation in Kosovo is just making me want to cry…. I’m trying to respond to you without thinking about that but with little success 🙂

  11. am also a fanatic 4rm Nigeria, started suporting Arsenal since 1997/98 season. Bergkam was my best playa then (have alwayz felt he was underated). Cn’t wait 4 arsenal to visit, am ready 2 miss an exam jst 2 watch a live freindly match. Nd pls tell me is there any channel that shows arsenal ladies match in africa? Wld rather watch it than d scums match.

  12. Darsei,

    really liked the article a lot.
    I have known a family from Kosovo that has fled to Belgium because of the war. They worked at the company I worked for at that time. He was brought to Belgium at the time to nurse his shot wounds.
    When the war was over he went back and was a happy man returning home.

    Hope you will be able to get to the Emirates to see a game live one day.

  13. My actual love for Arsenal started in 1999(and i’m 20 now, mind you). I came to know of Arsenal via Fifa 99 (BLESS ELECTRONIC ARTS). Then i saw some game vs MU. That’s when i saw that Henry, Anelka and co. existed in real too(too young to be uninitiated, i was) since then, it has been a love affair with the Arsenal under Wenger and a hate affair with MU. Invincible year was by far the best, i topped in school too that year. Being from India, my one wish is to see the Emirates for two complete days- because i’m surely going to faint of awe the first day.

  14. @Darsei –> Great post buddy.

    Me being an “international” fan like yourself, I guess we all have specific game or two where we were “converted” to be a Gooner. Like for me, it was back in 2000 against Leicester, a 6-1 scoreline and if my memory serves me right, it was decorated with a Thierry Henry Hat trick. Never looked back ever since. Being a big supporter of the game France played ever since the 1982 World Cup [I actually cheered for Platini and Tigana back then], it was an automatic choice. Arsenal was “champagne” football.
    It was really difficult to see Arsenal games back then in US. And it was even more difficult to make my “soccer” buddies believe that there is a team other than the Manures who actually play football. Or even worse, to convince them that Arsenal do it far better than the Manures can even dream of. You can only imagine how I Got brushed off. But then, the Sunday league team where I was playing back then was named “… United”. Go figure. 🙂
    “You don’t choose your favorite team, The team chooses you”… or something along that line. I for one, totally believe in it. That game that I saw that evening, was purely by accident. I can’t even remember why they were showing an Arsenal game on ESPN. But I’m so glad that they did and I happened to be there. And the rest is just history. Now every goal Arsenal scores I cheer with my 5 year old daughter. We have our own routine that we do as a goal celebration. 🙂

    Oh the joy to be a Gooner. 🙂

  15. hi i am a massive arsenal fan from lebanon i started suppporting arsenal because of dennis bergkamp when i first saw i fell in love with the way he plays. he is in my opinion the greatest player to have ever worn the arsenal shirt and we should make a statue for him at the emirates

  16. I live in Kenya, a nation whose footballing footprint in the world, even in Africa alone, is… well… virtually non-existent. In sports, we are best known for long-distance running (Paula Radcliffe is the only Briton who has managed to put up a decent fight against us in that field!). BUT we are nonetheless MAD about football, and especially the EPL (partly due to the shambolic state of our local league). And i want to go on record (and objectively at that) that Arsenal is the most supported club here (not kidding), followed by Man Utd. And dont we just love the Africans at the club, Song especially! For us here, the spuds dont count AT ALL; it is the fellows at Old Toilet (trafford, sory) that we vigorously passionately grapple with. Ch3l5ea has a handful of unsure pseudo-fans who appeared on the scene at the dawn of Mourinho (and still have the mourinho hangover). I started following Arsenal purposefully with our 2001 2-0 FA cup final victory over Chelsea. I remember Ray Parlour scoring in that game, if my memory is still ok. Since, i have developed from a naive ‘believe everything the foreign media spews about Arsenal’ to a full-blooded Gooner who knows what is wheat and what is chaff. Evidence? Untold is my favourite blog. Mind you, i have never travelled out of my own country. But one day.. one day, i am going to pay The Emirates an emotional visit. I LLLOOVE Arsenal… in sickness and in health… till death (mine, that is) do us part.

  17. Guys,

    A big Thank You to everyone for your kind comments. I never expecting such a great response.
    What fascinates me are your own stories of how you starting to support Arsenal. As pointed in my writing, there are always some moments, sometimes coming very surprisingly, that made you an Arsenal Fan today.

    Also, it is great to notice that the International Fans read blogs such as this one. Cheers 🙂

  18. Nice article ,Darsei ,and welcome to the best Arsenal blog there is !Arsenal are loved worldwide and even the so called hardcore opposition fans look at us with envy .
    Keep the faith !

  19. I live in Nigeria. Nice article. I support Arsenal because our successes are OUR successes. We don’t buy success like some clubs do. If the Greece had been managed like Arsenal, it would be a different story today. Kudos to this blog. This is the most realistic blog there is about Arsenal. I hope to visit this spring and I will seek Tony, God helping me.

  20. Thank You Darsei. It is indeed wonderful that Arsenal is supported in far flung places. Do keep writing and coming on to Untold.

    @Asif: Where in India are you?

  21. I am not remebered exactly when I fell in love with Arsenal, but it must be about 1997 or 1998, because that time we have Vieira and Petit in the middle, and after that Arsenal win World Cup!

    I think Arsene makes a lot new Arsenal fans after he becomes manager. The fans who loves the way Arsenal played football. And trophies only bonus. (BTW, trophies is for attract sponsors and our bargaining with sponsors)

    In Indonesia we can easily support any teams from Seria A, EPL or La Liga, because we can watch them for free every weeks. But I choose Arsenal, I only can enjoy 2 teams when they played, Arsenal and Barcelona, but the way Arsenal play is more beautiful in my opinion.

    But sadly, the fact is only MU has Indonesian edition magazine.
    I mean MU magazine with Indonesian language. This magazine is publish by Indonesian largest publisher, pure business.

  22. Wow, what an article, and what a blog.

    I am a Nigerian and my love affair with Arsenal started in 1998, I was in my mid teens then. Dennis Bergkamp made me a fan-the passion with which he played that made him brush aside a full-left back and went on to score has never fade away-and I think am also lucky to witness the finesse of Henry and the skill of Kanu.

    I later had to do some digging about the club I support and Mr Arsene Wenger was to imposing for me, He’s now my de facto Mentor. And I think he deserves it. from the way he Talks, to the way he reacts, to his philosophy and to his looks (really), he just got me always fall in love again with the club he’s also in love with.

    May the love never end. Amen

  23. i believe for most of us in Africa it’s easy to identify ourselves with arsenal because;
    1) the foreign coach
    2)the foreign players of African roots
    3)the beautiful style of play that dazzles our opponents

  24. I was not expecting to ever see Kosovo or anything to do with it ever in this blog haha. I was also born in Kosovo and I had to leave because of the war in ’99. I now live in Canada but have supported Arsenal for the same amount of time. I fell in love with Arsenal through Thierry Henry and the French national team as well. This past summer I had the chance to visit the Emirates and loved every minute of it. I even got to watch the 1 – 0 win against Udinese. It was nerve wrecking because we were opened up countless times, but never have I enjoyed an event so much in my life. I am also glad we won the only game I have ever been to. Can’t wait to return to the emirates as soon as financially possible! By the way, Arsenal is one of the most popular teams in Kosovo.

  25. Back in 1999 when Manchester United won the treble, they became the dominating force here in my country, Viet Nam. If you found a guy who knew something about football, there was a 99,99% chance that he was a M.U supporter. It was the time when football always went along with 3 things : World Cup, National Football Team/Clubs and M.U.

    I mean, they were all over the place, football magazines continuously published articles about how great Ferguson was, teenager magazines gave free posters of David Beckham. My high school football team wore M.U shirts when we played in the league for teenagers in our area and I saw a dozen of teams also had the same color. Even our best commentators on TV were M.U supporter. As a 15 year old boy at that time, I found myself lucky enough to not involve in anything related to them. Actually I had to show my gratitude to them because they were an important fact that helped creating my love for Arsenal.

    In 2002, the title race turned into a battle between four contenders – Arsenal, M.U, Liverpool and Newcastle United. Arsenal clinched the title after a convincing win against M.U at their ground. I was like “Hah, in your face. Finally there is someone who can take your down”. Arsenal won a double that year and it was a start of a sweet love.

    When I knew about their unbeaten run during 2003-2004, I started to watch them closely and realized a special feeling towards these men. They were special to me in every way, the way they touched the ball, the way they passed it and the way they put it into opponent’s net. It was all beyond my imagination. Could it be more beautiful and easier like they way they do? I doubt it.

    Fortunately, the season after was the final event that attached my whole life with Arsenal unconditionally. 24th October, Arsenal was unable to stretch their unbeaten run to 50 matches because of a dive. The sadness and anger exploded at the same time that I knew I could not support any other club except Arsenal for the rest of my life.

    In the recent time, there are new forces spreading in football community such as Barcelona, Chelsea or Manchester City. The number of supporters of these clubs also grows up every year in my country going with trophies, big stars and huge transfer fees. Among all of that, the fact that there are more and more Arsenal supporters make me happier than anything else. We are neither big spender like M.C/Chelsea nor have a cabinet full of trophies like Barcelona, but we still manage to attract people with our own style of football, our mental strength and determination to overcome challenges and difficulties. It’s us against the world and I’m more than happy and proud to stay next to my team in this battle no matter how long it will take.

  26. I am a Nigerian and i started supporting the Gunners because Kanu played for them.Because he was so influential for our NT during that period the highlight being our Olympic Gold medal in Atlanta 96.Although he left the team,the magic of Arsenal turned us into disciples.That period was also successful for the team as we were always challenging for the title and our unbeaten season is also a major high point.The day i visit the Emirates would be one of my happiest and am really looking forward to the experience along with my family.

  27. Great article. It is nice to see Untold is getting more and more contributors.

    I am not really sure if overseas supporters actually get to pick a team to support. Some way or another you are drawn to a certain club, whether that is the style of football they play, the successes they had in recent years or one of their star players.
    The main reason Arsenal showed up on my radar was the transfer of Bergkamp to the club; he was one of my favourite players when still at Ajax. It still took a couple more years before I became more interested in English football, as not much was shown on Dutch television at the time, and then Arsenal became the obvious club for me to support.

  28. Hi all,
    I’ve been closely following untold for quite some time now and have bookmarked this article ever since it’s born. Thank you, Darsei, for your lovely article which inspires all these emotional responses.
    With Arsenal coming to China again this summer I feel someone from my country ought to express our appreciation towards the club, as responses to this article starts to cover every corner of the world. Unlike the majority of you guys (international fans I mean), my love affair with Arsenal actually started at a low when we were beaten by Barca in the UEFA final. Followed by the transfer of Rosicky from Dortmund (my second favorite team now which used to be the only one^^), I was officially “converted” to a gunner. I remember the cold spring night in March 2008 when I was crying and shouting silently for Sagna’s first league goal, wrapped up in my sheets, reading live commentary from my cellphone(in China’s universities, at least in mine, internet was cut off after midnight and in every dorm room live 4 people). I remember the glorious away tie at Milan for which I booked a hotel room a week in advance, and the burst of cheer for Fabregas’ goal caused a complaint from a room not even on the same floor~ (it was about 4 am in China)
    There were tears in my eyes when I read about Darsei’s fixture poster as I had my own on the wall. And for the record, I’m not that sentimental when it comes to anything but Arsenal^^…


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