Irrationality and football

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.



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



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



The days when football journalists could write, entertain and make us laugh (a true newspaper report about Arsenal in the 1930s)

“Making the Arsenal” – the novel.  The most extraordinary book about Arsenal ever.  And that’s unofficial.  Available from and from the publishers direct.

Today on Making the Arsenal: Charlie Buchan’s first appearance for Arsenal. (sorry this link wasn’t working earlier – it is now).



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



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.

19 Replies to “Irrationality and football”

  1. Great article, The Law. Really enjoyed it. It always is nice to see and hear from fans around the world who support and live on the waves that The Arsenal make. For good or for worse, Gooners we are and we will stay.

    And I know what you mean as my first ever game at Highbury was also a game we lost but it felt that good to be there among those fans, to see the likes of players like Brady (the main reason I think I became a fan – what skill, what vision, what a player…), and other Samsons, O’leary, Sunderland (he should have played for Sunderland…), Pat Jennings, …

  2. Great read, I live in India and i came about supporting the Arsenal as a thirteen year old and was expected to watch only cricket as it’s not just a game in my country, it is a way of life. Back then only a stark minority watched football in Mumbai(Bombay) and among them the outright majority were with United I on the other hand had different ideas, I had only just received a copy of Fifa 98 and was willing to give it a go, although I understood only the basic rules of the game I started enjoying it. Arsenal were the the team that showed up when I selected a weird option in-game called season and I played an entire season with the men in red and white and throughly relished the experience, A while later when I watched a game on the telly where Arsenal were playing a team called middlesbrough and the team were 3-1 down and a guy called Rayes scored in quick succession and arsenal won the game by 5 goals to three in the match there was a statement made by the commentator that really clicked a unrelenting passion for this football club and all things arsenal. Since that day I’ve never looked back and have come to know a lot of thing about the club and the fans, the managers and our history and i have always been keen about knowing more. Sites like these have helped a lot too and now I can proudly say that I am in love with this football club. BTW the statement was ” you ask why Arsenal are the Champions? This is why they are the champions”.

  3. Tony – I appreciate your continuous innovation but the footnotes at the end of the main posts are now getting to be too long and distractiong. Now it takes a a lot of clicking to get to the readers comments. Just one man’s opinion.

  4. Me is quite new supporter also! Ever since Kanu was signed. Adebayor was a perfect example of cloning gone bad.

  5. Just thought I’d add a quick comment. I don’t know why so many people keep saying 3rd Arsenal player to go down in 5 Years. It was actually less than 4 years. 3 years and 10 months to be exact. If one is to round I would say 4, however, saying 3 years and 10 months sounds even better. “3rd Arsenal player to have his leg broken in 3 years…and 10 months.”

    Do people keep saying 5 because Cesc said 5 during his interview?

  6. Rumour of the day:

    Alan Hansen et al had laid Utd to lose on Sunday as Sir Alex had told them that ‘I’m resting Wayne for Milan’. He didn’t tell them that he had a deal with Capello for Owen to be injured each time he was watching, so he had to put Wayne on to win the game. 1-0 to the big man…..

    Meanwhile, Spurs’ English players are going down like ninepins. Jenas, Huddlestone and Lennon are all hors de combat after being nasty to Roman P. ‘Arry, bless him, laughed while saying: ‘Blow me, I ‘ad to play ‘im on Chairman’s orders ‘cos we need to sell ‘im in the summer, now ‘e’s scoring goals for fun! I feel like the manager of the Old Lady: if I drop the ‘ome boys Don Corleone’s blowing me ears off, if I drop the Russian the Chairman’s threatened to knee-cap me. Funny old game, innit??’

  7. I wish I could remember when exactly,but I know why,given my choice of national teams and clubs that I’ve always had a soft spot for,the likes of Brazil,Netherlands, Spain,Nigeria(not any more,how I miss Okocha and the old Kanu),Barca,Real,Milan.I knew the Mancs b4 the Arsenal but….The affair started in ’96,maybe ’tis the Wenger factor,really don’t care,I remain…eternity’s the refrain…

  8. On a more serious note, the BBC is reporting the following:

    1. Man Utd’s gross debt has reduced from £716m in June 2009 to £500m odd in Dec. 2009.
    2. Cash balances up by >£100m like-for-like in Dec 2009.
    3. Q4 T/O implying annual income of >£300m pa.
    4. Their ‘media income’ is up 33%, a huge hike.

    Sounds like the Glazers injected some equity capital, because there’s no way on earth that Utd aren’t paying their players.

    If you assume they got £80m up front for Ronaldo, most unlike Real, but hey: perhaps they did what was necesary, that still implies a £240m hole in the debt that they somehow filled.

    Interesting to see how it all pans out……..and implies to me that Glazer boys are doing what Platini wants, namely bringing debt down…….

  9. Great article. I am another ‘Gunner for life’, from India. Dont remember how I came to support The Arsenal, all I remember is once I saw them play, there was no other team for me.

    And Walter, kudos for the ‘Gibberish’.
    “She kept saying ‘humiliate me humiliate me’ over and over. In the end I gave her a Chelsea shirt.” LoL. Classic.

  10. Tony – Firstly, I agree that the whole “Rumours and other stuff” at the end of each blog is getting really, really tiresome. Maybe you should have a daily “Rumours and other Stuff” post which sits on its own which is intended to be light and cheesy and in which you can advertise everything else going on in Untold Arsenal and the rest of your online catalogue.

    Secondly – Is Untold Arsenal becoming a blog simply for supporters to make posts telling about their passions and the way they began supporting Arsenal? This is becoming quite frequent now. Once is nice, twice is okay, three times gets tiresome. Shall I create a thread as well with how I became a supporter as well? Nah, not why I come here, and I would think not why a lot of people come here. It seems like an ego-trip for people, as in “hey look at how much of a fan I am, aren’t I great?” or something like that.

    Untold Arsenal has expanded its readership due to the way it tackled serious issues in a light way, and presented views of referees, amateur economists, etc. That was why I found it fascinating and a good read. Not for posts like this. Another article like this and at least one reader will be gone. It is a lovely story but not exactly why I come onto this blog.

  11. Nice article, always interesting to have some international perspective.

    Wildly OT, but The Guardian is reporting a new hearing scheduled in Pompey vs HMRC for 15 March.

    Are HMRC Chelski fans?

    Is it possible that HMRC is trying to liquidate Portsmouth FC before 24 March, which is when Chelski play them?

    If they manage to do that, we’ll lose six points (along with ManU), but Chelski will only lose three!

    Heaven help us! That would be the most unfortunate way imaginable to lose the League.

  12. Thank you for the feedback on the changes that are being made. I do note the points, and will try to respond accordingly. On one point I disagree though – and that is the issue of hearing from fans from across the world. I think we have only had about 4 or 5 such stories and I have found them all very interesting indeed, and clearly so have a few others. For me, they serve to remind me how incredibly lucky I am that the club I was born into, and whose ground my parents lived so near, happens to be Arsenal. And that I can go to matches there.

    The point about taking the number of posts up to three a day is very roughly to have an economics piece, a current issues piece, and something else, each day, allowing everyone to choose what they want and to ignore the rest.

    But this does imply finding some sort of index so that the once-a-day readers (and I don’t mean that in any sort of negative way – I am honoured that anyone comes here once a week, let alone once a day) can find the article that he/she particularly wants, be it economics, current Arsenal or anything else.)

    Nothing is fixed, and it might be that the redesign of the site which is not far away, will help.

    All I can say is that whether you think “this use to be ok but now its horrible” or “this is getting better” let me know. The site will always be pro-Wenger,and will always be interested in the economics and politics of football, and seek to expose the corruption, as well as be a platform for supporters who want to take us somewhere else. But HOW we make it all workable is another matter.

  13. Living in Cape Town, South Africa in the 80’s most people were supporting Liverpool, that trend obviously changed over the decades to follow. I too remember getting my first taste of English football in ’87 when I watched the FA cup for the first time. Coventry ended up beating Spurs that day and I became fascinated by the British game. In 89 I watched only my second game, invited over to my uncle’s house who was a die hard Liverpool supporter I was 12 years old at the time. Just before the game started my cousin started spitting out fact after fact about every Liverpool player he could think of. That game would forever determine my allegiance to the Arsenal. That game for most gunners supporters is almost like the ‘holy grail’ of Arsenal football matches. Like Man U winning the champions league for the first time or Liverpool’s comeback in the same competition years later. When people ask me ‘why do you support Arsenal?’ I always tell them of that fateful day when Michael Thomas stuck one past Grobbelaar in the dieing seconds of the game to help Arsenal clinch the title at Anfield. You couldn’t have written a better script.

  14. Rhys Jaggear,
    ManU’s debt according to the BBC actually reduced from 532 to 500: jus a 32 pound reduction. What makes it up to 700 is the extra 200 they owe to hedge funds in the US as interests only. So in total they still oew 700 ponds.
    Anyways, isn’t it fun that we don’t have to look for any behind the scenes group of people(Red knights)to take over from another behind the scenes group of ppl? Sweet to be a gooner now. Get a glass of wine, put me feet up and watch them tumble like Drogba on a sunday afternoon

  15. A very good piece ‘The Law’. Much honoured to read your sojourn into the Arsenal universe.

  16. Great read as is © & ™ of Untold Arsenal, and I especially love this line
    “a team which had the audacity to lose my inaugural game”

  17. The Law,

    Nice article! My Naija broda wetin dey happen? I’m always delighted to hear stories about how Gooners are made. Born Gooners like Sir Tony are a different case. They are “2nd class” Gooners:-)

    Paul C,

    For some of us (I mean Gooners like me), Untold is like a family. I come here to mingle: To celebrate victories and to get some theraupetic soothing after undesirable results. Stories from other Gooners make this site a lovely place to be and give us all perspectives from other regions. I don’t think the Law (or any other contributor) was trying to show-off their love of Arsenal. But in case they do, I’ll happily take it. With the “I hate Arsene and most of the Arsenal players than you” contest perpetually going on at Le Groan, I’ll jump at all the love I can get.

    Seriously though, I support your call for moderation.

    EPL champions in May; can I hear any AMEN?

  18. Lovely article. I’ve supported Arsenal for a similar length of time. Two seasons before was probably the start of my Arsenal Following. I have no family or locational ties to Arsenal, grew up in the midlands and neither of my parents like football.My Grandad was a Sheffield Wednesday fan and Wednesday were probably the closest big team to us. My brother started following Wednesday and so when Arsenal played them in both cup finals the sibling rivalry took over and I chose Arsenal. Thankfully we won both and I fell in love with the club ever since.

    Over the years I’ve not really seen a bad Arsenal just a mediocre season during Rioch’s reign so I don’t know of the poor years in the 70s and 80s but I still know that trophies are not the be all and end all and I love the way this club is run.

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