MUSINGS OF A REALISTICALLY OPTIMISTIC GOONER
Mutiu O. Shokanmbi
Let me start by stating that I suck at playing football. I was born and raised in Nigeria and in my country if you cannot dribble 2 or more players then you suck. Period! The more players you can dribble past the better player you are.
Jay Jay Okocha is the darling and hero of most Nigerians despite not being as productive or successful as Kanu is as a footballer. If you know Jay Jay then you know why. I find it hard to go past one player: I suck!
When we played “set” (forms of 4, 5, or 6-a-side in Nigerian lingo) in secondary school, no one liked me in their team except ‘Femi, my talented school mate, who was an automatic captain like a few others because of his obvious ability.
He repeatedly included me in his team and when asked by the other captains his response has stayed with me for more than 20 years. He said I would not allow anyone to go past me. Now, I was no great defender, actually I was poor. We played without referees and the only punishable offence was ‘handball’. I was a terrible fouler but others could only complain. I did nothing nasty or hurtful just some serious shirt pulling, holding, grabbing, dragging, leg holding etc.
I might have been playing rugby but all I did was legit based on our general rules. My friend recognised my hatred for losing and willingness to throw my body on the line to prevent it. But most importantly, he knew I was effective otherwise he would not continue to pick me.
‘Femi, even as a teenager recognised that different players bring different dimensions to the game. He also seemed to understand the psychology of loyalty as I would give my all to ensure his team did not lose. I see ‘Femi on hindsight as a Wenger-like thinker even if the circumstances and (especially) the football philosophy are totally different (Wenger would have no one like me in his team and even I detest teams who adopt this playing style e.g. Bolton). ‘Femi never played professionally but unlike our other talented peers, he was smart enough to get educated. He works in one the biggest banks in Nigeria as a financial analyst.
What I lack in footballing ability, I make up for in passion and understanding of the game’s history. And love of Arsenal!
Denilson Vs Stoke City (FA cup):
I yelled: HOLD HIM, GRAB HIM, BRING HIM DOWN as Denilson ‘escorted’ Sidibe to deliver Stoke’s second goal which effectively killed the game. For the first time ever, I felt like I could do something football related better than an Arsenal player. Watching Denilson jog behind Sidibe is one of the most disgusting sights I have ever seen on television. I can swear that Fabregas would have brought Sidibe down. Again perspective: I love Denilson. I have liked him since he first featured 4 years ago in the Carling cup. I was mad at him for a few days but I am glad he is an Arsenal player. I think his place in the team is earned and deserved. I look forward to seeing him do greater things in Arsenal shirt as he has already done some great things. I also expect to see him make (hopefully just) a few more mistakes in future for which I will be mad but still get over. I’ll never wish him injuries or demand he be sold off.
I have supported Wenger’s Arsenal long enough to know how things work with players coming up. Cesc is the only exception and seriously, we all know El Kapitan is a freak (in an awesome way).Arsene’s strong sense of perspective and ability to see beyond HERE and NOW is the main reason why I love him. It’s also the reason why Arsenal will beat any team in the world to any young player’s signature unless the youngster has other consideration other than developing as a player.
Is it a mere coincidence or plain double standard?
My most frustrating Arsenal player is Theo Walcott who I hold in same esteem as all his team mates. In terms of contributions to the team, I think Denilson has done more for Arsenal than Theo but what I have noticed is how much leeway some commentators can give the latter while coincidentally crucifying the former – at times in the same article. Their most common excuse is Theo’s young age while savaging a fella about a year older. I have no grudge against Theo; I just wish the double standard will stop. I understand and appreciate the promotion of ANYTHING British from beef to potatoes. But with Arsenal players, I expect things to be different, especially from Arsenal fans. We are still the most English top team in terms of ownership. That should count for something.
Comparative Arsenal Support: British Vs Overseas Gooners
There are more Arsenal fans in Nigeria than in England! Having lived in England for 3 years now, I also know that there are more passionate Arsenal fans back home.
Visiting the Emirates for the first time was like Holy pilgrimage for me. I think it is the most beautiful place in the whole of Britain! I find it difficult to understand why the stadium is always half empty 10 minutes before time. When I’ve been fortunate get ticket to visit ‘the Holy Land’, I stayed till the players have left the field. I consider myself very lucky. I know what many of my mates will sacrifice to see our players in action.
On occasions when they come visiting, they pay any amount to get in and scream themselves hoarse in support. Most of the overseas fans don’t think they know better than the manager. They regularly get mad about some of our players based on their performances but there is never malice.
A bird in hand………
It seems there is nothing some fans love more than hating some of our players. At times it seems like an obsession. Why can’t we just say that Denilson had a bad game (ok maybe a string of bad games) and wish he’ll come good again soon? If these fans had their way, Song and Diaby would be blossoming for other teams right now. I agree that we have some duds but which team doesn’t?
For how many years did Barcelona wallowed in the wilderness playing second or third fiddle to Real Madrid and even Valencia at some point? Do the big money paying teams always get it right? Is Ibrahimovich TRULY worth 40million + Eto’o; has he justified it? The buy, buy, buy singing Gooners give the impression that buying is the all in all. They really make me mad when they spout their anti-Wenger sentiments under the cover of the Internet anonymity and pompously demand he takes certain actions – usually buy certain players – so that we can win titles and they can stop getting humiliated by their friends and co-workers or he should be sacked as he has already lost the plot.
Self-loathing caused by harmless and easily dispelled banter
Most of the complaints of the Doom&Gloomers stem from the taunting from other fans. But we take the good with the bad and fortunately at Arsenal, we have more good than bad. Some of the taunts and jeers from other fans are borne out of envy. No one ever describes ManIOU, Chavs or any other British team using accolades like beautiful or entertaining. Roman Abramovich knows the cost of an entertaining team. He is yet to get one after spending billions.
We take it for granted and other fans are mad with jealousy. How can they beat us in banters? Just throw in “you’ve won nothing in 4 years” (sorry it’s not 5 till end of May). Take up any argument with any of our rivals’ fans and you can bet your pay cheque on this line of attack. But if we are to commit suicide over this easily waved off banter then only ManIOU and the Chavs should have fans.
A chav colleague of mine wondered aloud that I must truly love Arsenal because – wait for it – I have not changed my computer desktop background featuring the 2009/2010 team photograph despite our back to back losses to them and ManIOU, pitying me for the open ‘humiliation’ I had to suffer. He reckoned it would have been less painful as fewer people will know I am a Gooner and not mock me for our losses if I only had the ‘good sense’ to change my desktop background picture to Jedward’s. Seriously, these are the type of fans for which many Arsenal fans throw their team, players and manager under the bus!
Call it revisionism, I call it Perspective
I read on a blog a few days ago, how winning the league doesn’t mean much anymore as we are definitely only the 3rd best EPL team of the season having lost home and away to ManIOU and the Chavs even if we end up with more points after 38 games. If you read Walter’s last post you may be wondering like I often do: “are some Arsenal commentators crazy, stupid or just Tinites (apologies Sir Tony but I love this new name – it is not offensive and it perfectly describes our wannabes from up the road) faking as Gooners in order to piss us off”.
It is this kind of self-hating crap that drove me to Untold. “Hey boys, stop trying; my ManIOU supporting co-worker has told me that they are champions already because they have beaten you home and away.”
Let’s look at the last few seasons and compare and contrast.
2006/7: We beat ManIOU home and away and topped the mini-top4 league. ManIOU came last. We came 4th after 38 games. No one called us champions. In fact everyone pretended like this never happened and the prediction was that we’ll be out of top4 (that prediction has now been long running).
Last season: ManIOU again came last in the top4 mini league. We beat them at the Ems and drew at OT. Liverpool beat them home and away. No one said they are undeserving of the title. The general critique of Liverpool was that they were not ruthless enough against weaker teams.
We lost 6 points and net of 10 (+5 – -5 = +10) goals to the Chavs. We lost 6 points and net of 6 (+3 – -3 = +6) goals to ManIOU. Take away all our games against these 2 and we have:
Now, I am as heartbroken as any Gooner about our losses to these 2 teams but the good thing about this season is that we are killing-off small teams. Believe me this is why ManIOU are perpetual champions: they are a bunch of hyenas – no team is better at killing-off dying or wounded oppositions. By the time they have beaten all the average to small teams, their losses against us or Liverpool becomes insignificant. A 1-0 win at home against Pompey is more valuable than 2 away draws at Anfield and Stamford Bridge. ManIOU recognise this, I am overjoyed that we finally do too.
Who knows tomorrow or May 2010?
I have absolutely no idea how this season will end but looking back to summer of ’09 and where we are now, I feel very good. We are supposed to be struggling for fifth or sixth place. We are comfortably 3rd with realistic hope of finishing even better. We are currently over-performing. And we are still maturing with vast room and capacity for improvement! Not forgetting our long list of injuries to key players. But the sweetest of all for me is that we are doing this despite not towing the lines of the Doom&Gloomers: buy buy buy or else……
Keep hope alive and support your team Gooners. The future is bright, the future is Arsenal, the future is HERE!!!
UNTOLD RUMOURS by Algenon Fitzgibbon-Beater
George Gillett Jnr has confirmed money has not been borrowed against Liverpool’s debt in order to buy the Premiership club.
There have been suggestions that the buy-out will be similar to that of the Glazers’ takeover of Manchester United, but Gillett says Liverpool will not be saddled with any debt.
“This is going to be unusual, I think, in the history of sport in England,” Gillett told Sky Sports News.
“There were many concerns that the chairman (David Moores) expressed about that subject and we listened to him carefully. “So we’ve structured it in a way, I think, will be good for the club and good for the fans going forward.”
“We want to create a club that has that wonderful success on the pitch.”
—- Editor’s note: that is not actually a rumour it is an actual report from Sky Sports. It really makes one wonder if there is anything on that station that has any resemblance to the truth.—
Ashley Cole has been banned from Harrods in Knightsbridge, on “health and safety grounds”.
Re the arrest warrant issued against Portsmouth’s chairman relating (allegedly) to a disputed property deal with Fahim (allegedly) owing a sum of £1.4m, if he were found guilty he would have to leave Portsmouth under the fit and proper person’s rule. The arms dealers and struck off solicitors could however remain.
If Arry is found guilty of defrauding the state by not paying tax, he would not have to resign from the Tinies. Funny old world.
If you have any story that ought to appear in Untold Rumours please send it to Tony@hamilton-house.com
WHAT YOU MISSED BECAUSE YOU WEREN’T READING PROPERLY – and coming soon
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From Man U to Mansfield – how football is falling apart and what three guys have done to stop it. Read here.
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