Prelim note in case you don’t normally look at the end of the blogs. I am doing some re-arranging of the ending of the blogs, as we move fully into a three post a day mode. Please do take an occasional look at the foot of the article, and let me know any ideas for improvement. Tony (ed).
Irrationality and Football
By The Law
In international football, you support your country’s team. Some people, me included, support more than one national team. I’m a Nigerian, so the Super Eagles of Nigeria come first for me. My second team has always been Holland. I think I was as frustrated and angry as any Dutchman when we lost to Italy in Euro 2000 after dominating the game and missing two penalties. I have recently acquired a soft spot for the Spanish, given their musical play.
In association football, on the other hand, clubs acquire supporters in many different ways. For some, it is the club they grew up close to. For others, it’s the team their brothers, fathers, uncles, etc. supported. For such fans, strong bonds are forged as supporting a club is tied in with feelings of home and family. For instance, I also support the team based in the city I grew up in, which goes by the name of Bendel Insurance FC.
Clubs also acquire international fans. Some support a club because it’s famous. Some support a club because it won a trophy. Others may do so because they like a style of play they saw, or a particular player. Others come to a club through friends. A friend told me he became a Gooner because he saw Ian Wright play.
The same friend told me my support for the Gunners is irrational. Why? I will explain shortly. You see, I have been a proud and loud Gooner for around 15 years. I started supporting Arsenal long before I even saw a Premier League game. However, I am a strange breed of international fan as my support is not based on a trophy, a style of play, or a particular player. Before I began supporting Arsenal, the most access to European league football I had was highlights of Italian Serie A matches shown on local television.
My first Arsenal game ended in heartbreak when some bastard took a hopeful shot from a little bit inside our half, and the ball found its way into the back of our goal despite the best attempts of a furiously back-pedaling Arsenal keeper. It was years later I found out that the bastard’s name was Nayim and the keeper’s name was David Seaman. To this day, I can close my eyes and see Seaman reaching backwards for the ball and not getting it. I can remember asking myself what in nine hells he was doing so far off his line in the first place.
Yes people, my first game was the infamous Cup Winners Cup final in 1995. I wasn’t in the stadium, I didn’t start the game from the beginning, and I didn’t know the names of the players I wanted to win the game. All I knew was that the team they played for was Arsenal FC, and I didn’t even know which country it was from, I didn’t know the name of the manager, or where their stadium was (I found those out much later). I knew nothing about them, except that I liked them.
I didn’t see another Arsenal game for a while. We didn’t have satellite TV, and I had bigger fish to fry, like finishing secondary school and getting into university. It is safe to say that the entirety of the 1997/98 Double year passed by without my noticing, seeing as I was in the thick of exams then.
Then we got satellite TV, and we got to watch the Premier League every weekend. My elder brother revealed himself to be a Salford Bankrupts fan (they weren’t bankrupt back then though) and so did my mum and my kid sister. My little brother chose Liverpool Insolvents. I simply shook hands with Arsenal, we reminisced over that Nayim goal, and then we shrugged and got on with it. My dad looked at all of us like we’d gone mental.
I had to endure the smirks of my family for a while. Man U was winning titles, Liverpool took the FA Cup off us, and my dad wondered why I supported a team which seemed determined not to win anything. Then 2002 happened.
When we made that trip to Old Trafford, I was itchy with anticipation. When Wiltord seized the rebound and stuck it away, the Common Room in which I was watching simply erupted. I’d had no idea there were so many Gooners around. Then came the FA Cup and KGB Fulham (they weren’t tainted by the KGB back then, but they were still in Fulham). Ray and Freddie saw us to victory, and the Double was complete.
My joy on that occasion would only be surpassed by the Invincible Season, and nicking the FA Cup off Man U in 2005.
I will not lie and say that winning those trophies felt good. It felt great. Fantastic. Watching Pires come for his medal in 2002 on crutches while the rest of the team bowed to him was as good as watching Titi slalom his way through Liverpool’s defence to smash home our third at Highbury. Even more devastatingly brilliant was Bergkamp’s turn at Newcastle. Nikos Dabizas must still wonder how Dennis did that to him, but I wouldn’t be too down if I was him. We did call Dennis “God” for a reason…
The bottom line is this – I didn’t pick Arsenal because they’d won a trophy. Prior to that first game, I’d never even heard of Arsenal. I didn’t like a specific player, or the manager, and I had never been to England. For whatever strange reason, I didn’t choose to support the team that won that match, I never even bothered to find out who they were. I was drawn (corny as that sounds) to Arsenal, and I never looked back.
When people ask me how I can support Arsenal when they’ve not won a trophy since 2903 BC, I think about how I came to this club, shrug and say, “I just do.” Some Arsenal fans have given up, jumped ship and headed to what they see as the greener pastures on offer at the KGB and Salford. I think about how a team which had the audacity to lose my inaugural game forged a bond with me that I feel certain I shall pass on to my children.
Some might say that supporting and loving something which brought me pain as its first gift makes me a masochist. I say that the pain was simply the tempering of the steel.
THE SHAWCROSS DIARIES…
It is time for a thorough investigation of all that is wrong with football
Tony Attwood immediately after the end of the Stoke game
Was the assault on Ramsey linked to money
Why Stoke type thuggery is not allowed in Spain and Italy
Stoke and Arsenal: the referee’s views
OFFICIAL NOTICE FROM UNTOLD TOWERS
The sound of a billion fans saying “Oh bugger” as the football economy crashes in on itself and destroys the game is © copyright Untold Arsenal
ARSENAL IN THE PAST…
The days when football journalists could write, entertain and make us laugh (a true newspaper report about Arsenal in the 1930s)
Today on Making the Arsenal: Charlie Buchan’s first appearance for Arsenal. (sorry this link wasn’t working earlier – it is now).
ARSENAL IN THE FUTURE
Predictions for the rest of the season: the start of the new golden era.
Almunia: are we being honest?
The manager’s resigned, the league’s ending… Where next for Arsenal?
Wellington Silva is the future of Arsenal
THE WORLD FAMOUS AND VERY SEEDY UNTOLD GIBBERISH
John Terry was spotted leaving the home of Algenon Fitzgibbon-beater, chief executive of the Red Brigade, a group trying to save Manchester United from its own supporters. Asked by waiting reporters if the new ideas that Mr Fitzgibbon-Beater had been putting in place would be a viable economic instrument for the restructuring of the financial stability of world football during the current fiscal difficulties Mr Terry agreed that she was a bit of a goer.
When asked what the lady of the house had thought of his late night visit, Mr Terry said that she had been “rather kinky”. “She kept saying ‘humiliate me humiliate me’ over and over. In the end I gave her a Chelsea shirt.”
Meanwhile Ashley Cole (who would like to be a good friend of John Terry but hasn’t yet learned the social skills) has had an offer to go to Real Madrid. He will get £120.000 a week, a new driving licence registered in South Georgia, six new mistresses every half hour, and a box of crayons. Mr Cole said that he felt so physically sick he nearly drove off the road. “They didn’t even offer to pay for my mobile,” said the man who is described to have been left back inside himself with fury.
Mr Cole’s agent (Letsby Avingu) told the news conference that it is now possible to get Ashley Cole satellite navigation and safety equipment called GRUNT. The speedo is set to minus 60 when the car is stationary, and every two minutes a plastic doll pops up, pulls down the driver’s trousers and takes a picture. “This will be very useful evidence if the magistrates dare to call in my client again,” said James Sueme of Sueme and I’llscrewyou, lawyers to Mr Cole who was also present. “Now we can prove that he is as innocent as John Terry.”
When it was pointed out that Mr Cole shouldn’t have been driving, having been banned for driving for seven years after doing 120mph in a 50mph limit, Mr Cole’s lawyer announced that his client had informed him that a plastic doll was “at the controls”.
Found any of that offensive? Blame Walter. He came up with the ideas.