By Walter Broeckx
In the comment section of this site a couple of days ago there was a comment from a Gooner from South Africa who was declared not a real fan of The Arsenal because he did not live in England.
I must say that from my own experience I never had some one saying this to me, well not that I can remember anyway. Maybe it’s my memory that is letting me down – but I don’t think so.
This statement about not being a true Arsenal fan if you didn’t live in England was true if you lived in (let us say) the seventies and even the eighties. In those, not so far gone days, it was almost impossible to follow The Arsenal when you lived in another country outside the UK.
Even I have to admit that in fact I couldn’t call myself an Arsenal fan. Although I do often call myself a fan of more then 30 years standing, for the first 15 years or so I hardly knew anything about the games, the players, the fans… I was like Manuel from Barcelona, I knew nothing.
But, I knew the final score, although not until Monday in the papers. Occasionally if something special happened we sometimes got some extra news. But if someone in those days had said to me, “You’re no real fan,” I would have had to accept it and bemoan the fact that I was not living in London.
We sometimes had the luck that on the Dutch TV there was a broadcaster that gave some games from England. I still remember the reporter, Harry, who had a very special voice and enthusiastic way of venting his thoughts. But they only showed one game a week and so it was not that much that we got to see The Arsenal in those days.
The only game that was shown live in those days was the FA Cup Final. For some 30 years they gave every cup final live on the Belgian channel, (we only had one Flemish channel in those days), and this was the work of the main TV football reporter in Belgium who was a real anglophile and he was crazy about the Cup Final. So I’ve seen some great victories live like the 5 minute final against MU in 1979. The thought still give me goose bumps. And of course I saw some sad days when we lost some finals.
It all started to change for the good when the BBC was put on our cable TV and we could see MOTD, in those days without the pundits we know now. In fact most of the pundits from today did appear but in shorts.
How great the joy and the excitement in our home. Well, I got excited, although my wife didn’t. I even remember that I played volleyball on Saturday evening but I always hurried to be back home to see MOTD.
My wife learned to live with the fact that on Saturday evening she is not married. Oh no Saturday was Arsenal day.
I must say the anger and the grief I felt, when on occasion the BBC lost the rights to show the EPL in those days, is indescribable. As we only have the BBC as English channel on our cable TV you can understand that even with the likes of the pundits from these days, I will always prefer them above the selling of the rights to any other channel.
From these days on I started considering myself as a Gooner. If someone then had said: “You are not a real fan” I wouldn’t have accepted it like that and would have bemoaned the fact that I was not living in London.
Then came the internet and I started to visit the official Arsenal site. It had, even in those days, a forum where we could talk, and I remember it had fans from all over the world present. A girl from Germany who always started her day by declaring that the fish was in the pond, a very funny Canadian who always started his day with a quote from The Simpsons, another guy from my home town who just lived a few miles away and who now is living in London, the lucky bastard.
From that day I felt like a real Gooner talking with the other fans, if not in person but with the help of some wires going round the globe. The forum suddenly disappeared one day and I must say I really was sad that day.
But the best thing that happened for me as an Arsenal fan was the birth of my 3rd son. He is the one that knows all about computers and laying connections with TV’s, and finding links on the internet when a game is not live on TV for us to see. He is the one that made it possible for us that we see every minute and every second of the games live and this for the last couples of years – as long as the wonderful world of the internet doesn’t let us down.
Thanks to this world I have discovered a big Gooner world out there with the good guys and the not so good ones. From all over the world there are fans who live on the rhythm of the Arsenal season. The first thing I do when the game plan is out is to put it on the calendar and the message is clear for all of us in the house: the dates and hours printed on that calendar are sacred and will not be used for anything else.
And if any English Arsenal fan would say now to me: “You are no Gooner”… I would feel insulted and not take it any more. I would tell him to wake up and realise that the world is far bigger than that lovely island you have over there.
The Arsenal is for everyone who wants to embrace it. So if you want to embrace it, just do it. It doesn’t matter where you are from. But let no one tell you or make you feel a lesser fan because you are not from England or London. Those days have gone. The Arsenal is for all.
Editorial: If you would like to write for this blog, please send an email to Tony@hamilton-house.com with an outline of your idea first. The only stipulations are that it can’t have been published anywhere else, and it must be a positive pro-Arsenal piece. Personal memoirs are also welcome.
And if you would like to read the book “Making the Arsenal” by the editor of athis blog, it is available through Amazon.co.uk and from the publishers direct. More details at www.emiratesstadium.info
And finally, you can follow the adventures of our predecessors 100 years ago on www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk
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