Great Expectations – Why are you an Arsenal Fan?
Guo Sheng Lee
I’ve been putting off writing this piece for quite a while now, as work has limited the time I have to write for Untold. However, after reading the piece on Le Grove and actually visiting the blog for the first time, I felt it was time to write about the expectations of our fans and ask what supporting the Arsenal really means to us.
In this piece, I will not try to tell others what to do as supporters as I believe everyone has their right to their own opinion, but I will definitely question certain preconceptions of entitlement that most fans seem to have with regards to their club.
For starters, we should ask ourselves – why do we support Arsenal? What made us truly want to be involved with this club? Was it the influence of family? The style of football that is played? Or is it success?
I believe that we should ask ourselves what really made us supporters, as I’m certain most of us never truly thought about it, despite it being absolutely fundamental. This is a question we have to ask ourselves and find the answer to before we can continue with the next round of questioning. I’m not going to try to offer any broad categories of support, as I believe the experience of being a fan is a very personal one, and you really have to put it in your own words to achieve self-actualization.
What I’ll do though, is briefly share what made me an Arsenal supporter. I’m a late supporter of the club, as I only began watching Arsenal in 2001. I set out watching football to socialize with my friends, and never intended to support a club, but as the years went by, I gradually became a supporter of Arsenal because I enjoyed the stylish football being played that simply wasn’t available anywhere else.
I suppose that was the first level of support, and it’s only been recently that I’ve grown to want the best for the club and admire its principles away from the field. Thus, you could say that I support the club because I enjoy the style of football being played and the decency of the club that I’ve witnessed over the last few years.
As a fan, I’d say I have a stake in the club in terms of passion and commitment, but much less so in terms of actually being a shareholder or a season ticket holder, due to the fact that I live in Singapore.
However, I believe that does not give me less of a stake in the club, as it is an emotional investment – it’s pretty terrible staying up for a Champions League match at 3 in the morning only to see the club get hammered by Barca, so much so that it affects me for the next few days, but I’m still happy to be a supporter of the club.
I don’t feel that it was a waste of time as it’s unrealistic to expect one’s club to win every single game. However, that being said, I do feel for the away fans that paid good money and took the time to go to the Nou Camp to cheer the club on. It’s something I don’t think I’m able to comprehend due to a lack of experience, but on the face of it I have to say I admire them, and if they have any complaints, I’d totally understand.
However, complaining is one thing, but when it reaches the point where it results in calls for the sackings of the board, manager and players, and descends into a cloud of negativity, I really do believe that we have crossed the line. As supporters, we have a choice to either support the club or not support the club, and it’s entirely up to us to choose.
It’s not as though it’s the government and we have no choice but to pay taxes, but it’s simply optional when it comes to supporting the Arsenal. We are not citizens of Arsenal, we are but supporters who willingly invest our time and money to support the club, and let’s be honest, the club is a business and we are its consumers.
While the club may often portray itself as a community, and attempt to draw in fans, it is still a business after all.
As consumers, for example, we don’t buy branded goods simply because our parents have done the same, and we don’t ask to sack the board of Calvin Klein for shoddy, expensive briefs. We have other options and we know that, but we don’t seem to see the parallel in football. If you don’t support Arsenal’s board, manager and players, what exactly are you supporting the club for?
Too often I read comments by Arsenal fans on sites such as Sky Sports or the Sun saying that they support the club but not its current management, and call for change. Quite frankly I find that ridiculous as it means that one supported the club in the past but not now because of change. Change is inevitable, and once it happens you have a choice once more to support the club or not to. I suppose it depends on what we are focused on – what we want, or what is best for the club.
Thus, is it too far-fetched to say that some fans have lost perspective? I believe that when we’re discussing matters of the club, we have to consider all the other fans as well. For some reason, those who continue with their negativity don’t really seem to be supporting the club, but are rather under the illusion that they are doing what is best for the club.
From what I’ve read, they believe that failure to win trophies for 5 years means that the manager is past it and it’s time for revolution. While revolution has indeed had historical precedents in providing progress such as in the case of the French Revolution, it has also brought misery as witnessed by the Russian Revolution. Great changes result in short term turmoil without any certainty of progress, and affect the stability of the club.
Unless those who call for the heads of our present leaders are willing to step up and assume responsibility for the club while guaranteeing that we win all our games, I really do not see the appeal or validity of their words.
True, the team does have its weaknesses and tickets are expensive, but is it really in the interest of the club to abandon its financially prudent approach at the moment when it has consistently remained competitive? Is it best for the club to introduce instability and take a risk by replacing everyone and spending beyond our means?
No, I don’t believe it is, and I can’t seem to find any argument that says it’s in the interest of the club. Therefore, I have to say that it seems more like self-interest of individuals. Individuals who just want their money’s worth, or their team to win at any cost for whatever reason. These are the same people who view the end as the most important rather than the process and claim it’s for the good of the club to keep winning. I struggle to understand that line of argument, as I would rather watch the team stick to its principles and fight for the title while entertaining us fans rather than employ Stoke tactics and win the league.
In the end, football is part of the entertainment industry, and what does it mean to win when you’re not entertained? Can we really be happy if season after season we see defensive football and long ball tactics once again? Wouldn’t that simply be regression to a time when the EPL wasn’t popular at all, and lead the league into a similar fate to Serie A? A
As a consumer I’d seriously reconsider watching the team if that was to happen. For some reason, winning has become the most important thing these days, and anyone who thinks otherwise is seen as a loser. Football may well be a zero-sum game, but do we really need the success of a club to make us winners as opposed to losers?
I believe it would be a sad day when we depend on the club’s success to define ourselves as winners when we can simply be content with other aspects of the game and still be happy in our lives. Of course, we want the team to win, but it’s most definitely not the end of the world when it doesn’t.
Every season is a gamble. No one knows who is going to win the league, the cups, and much less any game. Upsets happen, but they do not make a team a losing one overnight. This season, we have won more games than we have lost, so why isn’t the team still a winner?
I don’t believe it is reasonable to expect a team to win a trophy every year considering all the factors in the game, and that there really isn’t any rational alternative to simply hoping things go our way that year. However, if anyone out there is confident enough to say that he can guarantee success and be a greater manager than Wenger, I’d really like to see him substantiate that claim, but I won’t do it by risking the club. It’s great if the club can help fulfil our own interests as supporters, such as winning trophies, but the reality is that it does what is best and most prudent for the club.
In conclusion, everyone has their right to an opinion when they support a club, but we need to ask ourselves what exactly we are trying to achieve, and whether it’s really for the good of the club, or more specifically, Arsenal.
I personally believe in the work done here in Untold by Tony, Phil and Walter by trying to keep the spirits up, as I believe that fans can be the (pardon the cliché) 12th man. On the other hand, I don’t enjoy reading about others trying to incite discontent and much less organize it, as I don’t see what purpose it serves other than the self-interests of a few that is twisted as being for the good of the club. They may continue doing as they wish, as it’s a free world, but I’d question how productive such things really are, and why they support the club.
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