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Us foreigners and the real thing.

By Johnny Foreigner

Every now and again at UA an idea crops up, either suggesting that somebody somewhere is an ‘original fan’ or that someone else is a ‘foreigner’.   Unfortunately both ideas have implications which are impossible to verify once we start to scrabble around a bit under the surface.

The idea of being a foreign fan (and I suppose therefore not real?) is an odd one, in that everybody is foreign to everyone else at some point. Perhaps this is difficult for those who have been brought up under idea of Empire, or in families with strong notions of nationalism on a world scale to appreciate, but  underlying all this is the psychotic notion of “other”.  And by this I mean that every human is secretly walking around thinking, “I am the one. You are the foreigner.”

Where can we find evidence for that? Everyone is actually “one of the ones”, yet we all walk around with this idea that everyone else is not the “one”, and therefore “foreign”. Even sometimes we see our ourselves as foreign in some contexts, which seems quite ironic.

From a English perspective the “Europeans” are foreigners.  Live in continental ‘Europe’ and you will soon see that everyone is foreign to everyone else, and as we spread out internationally it carries on.  So all we can see is that everyone on the planet sees everyone as a foreigner.

It is quite amusing if you look at it one way, and pretty sad if we view it another. History has a depressing legacy in this regard, and one where we can see an awful lot of wasted time, life and creativity fighting to enhance the false notion of superiority and hierarchies instead of helping each other out!

Indeed even in football we basically need each other, we need a winner and a loser, otherwise the whole thing doesn’t exist. How can it? But the trap of duality here, can only be superseded by being tolerant and understand that its still relative.

What I don’t like is that the implication is that “foreign” fans don’t understand the game as well as the people who live locally to the club.  False insecurities like this lead people up the garden path to find who is the “real thing” and whose opinion is the most valid.

But how can anyone’s opinion be less valid because they live in another country and don’t go to the game? Times have moved on, and Arsenal is not what it was.  And indeed in the future it will be different again.

But let’s search for the original fan, who knows everything and has seen every game. Can we find him?No, because in every case somebody else was there before him or had more knowledge than him.  In fact as we trace it back we can’t even find the start.

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I’ve heard many Marxists talking about that fact that alienation doesn’t exist.  But everyone at some point or other, does feel a sense of alienation.  It may be false, and it may do great damage to our selves and others, but it is there. Understanding that the Id/Ego drags us into the basic idea of “other”, and “me” and from there we can consider dealing with that problem by taking some responsibility; or at least we can try to.

Again if we examine “me” or “other” and start to deconstruct them, we find they don’t exist, but we also come out the other side and find that we do exist, but just not in the manner we perceive. So we are real, but not really real.

Paradoxes are difficult for our minds to grasp as we are desperately looking for duality ( I good –  them bad) to underline the idea being the “one” while showing that the others “aren’t”.

We are all foreigners to someone, and we cannot find the original.  All we can find are modes of being, but I could be wrong, and this could be just one view, seen through the wrong lens.

Nobody owns the Arsenal, and we cannot find the Arsenal if we look, but it exists. For everyone.

Johnny Foreigner

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22 comments to Us foreigners and the real thing.

  • On a very real level, I feel I’m a real Arsenal supporter because I was brought up near the ground, and went as a child with my Arsenal.

    But then I have a friend who lives just a few hundred yards from the ground. I pass his house on the very last bit of my journey, as I get off the tube and walk towards the stadium. By that time I have travelled over 80 miles.

    So I am a real fan because I was brought up close to the ground, and because I make such an effort to travel over 80 miles to the game.

    But then I admire Walter who gets up in the early hours and spends almost a whole day travelling to and from the match. Is he more of a real fan than me?

    No, in the end, if we are fans, we are fans. There are no unreal fans, so there are no real fans either.

  • Chris

    God post,

    as far as I am concerned, I am left speechless by the stupidity of the remark : you are a foreign fan (or any variation thereof), as if this would mean as a ‘foreign’ fan, we’d have no word to say and our opinion would be worth less.

    When you think about it, I’d even dare to say that us ‘forign’ fans are the reason Arsenal is where it is. Or would the people living near the ground have been able to :

    – fill the Emirates at each game
    – finance the hundreds of millions Arsenal is earning via TV and other merchandise revenues
    – make Arsenal a world brand


    And, just thinking about it, less then a mile down the road there is a stadium being built….what is a foreigner…the chap who lives a mile down the road or the chap who lives on the other side of the world….

    To all those having this ‘foreigner’ perspective and sticking with it, why don’t you support your local amateur club…at least all chaps meet in the same pub, buy the same beer and are local…

  • Jax

    All very true and superbly written, but there are match going supporters (not fans) who’ve followed Arsenal home, away and across Europe who might resent being instructed on how to support the club they’ve been watching for most of their lives by somebody who’s never attended a live match and probably never will.
    It’s good that the club has a world wide supporters base, (and probably earns millions from this source), and the ones that make the journey (like Walter & Tim from 7amkickoff) have my admiration.

  • jw1

    Stateside fan. Never attended a match– but hopes to make that pilgrimage one day.
    The possibility gets shorter by the year though.

    Here, it’s 5 hours earlier readying for the start of Arsenal’s matches. Sometimes waking at 5am or earlier.
    I’ve found a site where live-blogging of matches occur– and I join in. A virtual pub as-it-were.
    Some time after the match ends– those that have attended– add to the comments with their insights of the day’s events.

    I can almost feel it. It’s as close as I can get.
    I have no small amount of envy(!) for my friends who attend.
    And admiration for their willingness to share their experiences– with every Arsenal fan, anywhere.

    Houston TX USA

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Strangely enough, I tend subconsciously to rank fans by the degree to which we are emotionally attached to, identify with, and follow Arsenal. The manner in which we react to a victory or a loss, whether it be glee, vitriol or insouciance, to me, may reflect this but it also shows a person’s character, which is something else, entirely.

  • omgarsenal

    My principle objections to being dubbed as a ¨foreigner¨ are twofold;

    1)Only a few decades ago Canadians were considered ¨colonials¨ and 2nd class as compared to Brits. Both my parents were from Britain (Ireland and Scotland)and looked down on the French-Canadians as being inferior to English speaking people. Now we’re all grown up , we Canadians still admire Britain but find it perplexing when chauvinism and xenophobia rear their ugly heads on UA.

    2)As a foreign fan (overseas supporter?) , regardless of whether I attend AFC games live or over the net or on the TV, I am as genuine a supporter and as committed a fan as any Brit living next to the Emirates. I despise the arrogance and hubris of Brits coming on UA claiming I am not a true supporter and that being a Gooner is reserved for those who buy a ticket to see AFC. i am sure Walter and others on UA feel the same.

  • insideright

    Strictly speaking a supporter is someone who actually pays money to the Club to aid its continued survival and prosperity.
    A fan can be just that without actually spending a penny.
    I’ve been a fan for 60 years and a supporter for over fifty.
    Is my emotional tie to the Club greater than someone who watches on TV from thousands of miles away and doesn’t even buy a shirt from them to wear while he/she’s doing it? Probably but it all depends on the individual.
    One thing is certain, people who are paid to voice their opinions (and generate response) are in a different group entirely. Come up with your own name for them!

  • MickHazel

    As a representative of the ‘old and infirm’ part of the support base I feel insulted and angry when, because I am no longer able to attend matches, I am regarded by some as being less of a supporter. There are all sorts of reasons, apart from the obvious geographical one, why folk cannot get to matches ranging from family commitments through to simply not being able to afford the ridiculous expense involved nowadays. However we are all supporters and stand equal, despite those who would say different.

  • Dontspill McGinnis

    I do consider myself a “Foreign” fan, in that though i live now in the UK, I am Canadian.
    I have travelled to see Arsenal play, but very infrequently, and have yet to step foot inside the Emirates.

    I chose to support Arsenal in the mistaken belief that my father took me to see a touring Arsenal side in Canada when I was 6 years old. (I now know it was a local Canadian side I was watching, but my Dad spoke about how great Arsenal were all through the match!)

    I think the important word is Fan. Anything that precedes it is just an adjective, and ultimately unnecessary.

  • Dontspill, lovely story about your Dad.

    I was convinced for most of my life that I knew the first match I went to, and most of the early games I saw with my father. But then when I set up the Arsenal History Society I got hold of the details of the reserve games for the season and found I had got it totally wrong!

    But that’s how it goes.

  • Gord

    I don’t think a supporter has to be defined as someone who pays money to the Club.

    All clubs have a home somewhere, and there have been incidences of teams changing where they call home.

    If teams participate in community activities, those activities are usually in the community where they call home.

    In GIS, it is common to assign a value to any chosen coordinates based on values taken from a set of data points. One common algorithm for doing so, is to use inverse distance weighting. I believe a common default is to use the inverse of the first power of distance, but I think many people from a physics background would use inverse distance squared (like electromagnetism and gravity). But this kind of process does assign more weight to points that are closer.

    So we could calculate the distance each person who attends a home match travels, and produce a map of attendance value for home games. What one does for visiting/away games, I am not sure. In theory we could do something similar to fans who watch the game on TV. But what do we use for the payment? It is some fraction of the 5 billion TV contract.

    While there are stories of fans traveling from half way around the world to watch a game at Wenger Stadium, those are rare. It is fairly commonplace for TV viewing.

    If we look at a map of attendance at a home game, and compare that to something like revenue derived from TV advertising, we will see that the contributed value to a team falls off much more quickly with distance for direct attendance than via watching on TV.

    If we were to put all the (UTM) coordinates for the homes of teams on a map, and between any given one of those points and all its nearest neighbors, we could connect the two points and find the perpendicular bisector of that connection. The combination of the country boundary and the perpendicular bisectors will define a bunch of polygons (Voronoi polygons or a Dirchelet tesselation are I believe the terms for this). This is a guess at creating the boundaries for a team’s “Home Fan Base”. But within any polygon, all the locations inside that polygon are closer to the team home near the centre of the polygon, than they are to any other team’s home.

    So you could look at the total gate attendance and partition it into those people who live in “this” team’s polygon, and then look at who travels from some other team’s home polygon to attend games Arsenal plays in. What you do for attendance from outside of England (and Wales?) would probably need to be decided.

    If you plug in every individual address for all attendees and produce a map of “income”, you could compare it to the polygon construction and see how they compare. There will be influences such as ease of transportation which can warp the map of individual locations from what the polygon construction suggests. If neighborhoods have suffered gentrification at some point, this would also warp attendance.

  • My take on this is that the UA contributor(s) who started this ‘Johnny Foreigner’ thing meant it as a put down to make him (JF) feel as not being part of the AFC Community – close by or far away. This article has done a good job on defining what is ‘foreign’ or not.

    Honestly such contributors could do much better than appeal to primordial sentiments to score a point on what is utterly irrelevant to how the World really works.

  • Amos

    I have 2things to say on the issue
    1. I’m not ashamed to concede I’m less of a supporter than the fellow who makes the requisite sacrifice financially, time and otherwise to ensure the survival of the club, left for folks like me arsenal would probably be broke as Mike Tyson. There are cogent reasons why different people support differently, but what cuts across is “prioritization”. Everybody has financial commitments outside of football, but mr A might prioritize arsenal above that vacation to the Caribbean, while mr B would rather make the trip.
    2. If we are being truthful, we would agree that statement usually comes about when a group of commenters want to lecture another group of commenters (which they like to give names such as the AAA) on how to be fans. Inasmuch as I totally agree with the points you make in the article, I think you’re not addressing the root of the problem. Its like the article is saying indeed there are true fans and fake fans, however the dichotomy isn’t based on location. It probably would be a more honest way to put the article. I do expect Tony to Come up with such an article now

  • Amos

    In conclusion I’ll say, we all are fans/supporters. We find a way to support our club one way or the other. Don’t lecture the other guy on how to be a fan and he’ll probably not remind you that you’re too far away to be an authority on the subject.

  • Jax

    ‘this ‘Jonny Foreigner’ thing’ has been going a lot longer than UA. I’m not sure when the phrase started, but I first saw it being used in Private Eye magazine in the 1960’s.
    So it’s not an Untold Arsenal thing at at all, but borrowed by UA. I’ve noticed that 7amkickoff also uses it.

  • para

    Yea, great article, maybe, just maybe people will start to wake up.
    Nationalism is the biggest threat, and has caused many wars and conflict.

    Mentally i consider myself an “Earthan” and have given up my nationality, sadly one still has to “officially” be nationalised.
    I do walk around seeing everyone as Erthans too, but then the nationalism of some people just gets in the way.

    In football, it is sad that even supporting one team there are still issues of “nationalism” as if that is something to be proud of.

    I once said to a few people, we were discussing nationality, that we do not choose where we are born, so there is nothing to be proud about. I could have been born in Arabia, or Vietnam, or Canada or Faroe Islands and then i would have been trained or indoctrinated to be what everyone else were in that place where i was born.
    A little thought about this shows the stupidity of being proud of one’s nationalism.

    So i continue on being Earthan and do from time to time meet other Earthans, but otherwise it’s a “messed up” lot of people i meet.

    Most do not realise that we are all sitting in the same boat, and those at the front tend to want to dig a hole in it, not realising that it will sink and everybody drowns.

    Some say this is human nature, but i cannot go with that, we are supposed to have intelligence to allow us to create a better life for us all, but even some animals could teach us a lesson.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    As both an Arsenal fan and supporter , I am least bothered by some here who would take great pains(in the butt !) and want to pigeonhole others to show that they themselves are in some way superior to the outsider/ foreigner. Actually in my humble opinion , it show the reverse . It points out to me that you are overcompensating for your inferiority -perceived or real. Deal with it!

    I for one am least bothered by their fallacious mental state and inadequacies. I don’t need their validation or approval to love and to be loyal to this club , as I have been doing since I was since I was fourteen . And as in life , never ever bothered about the Joneses.

    Similarly, I am also least bothered by the opinions of my own countrymen in most things , including all things Arsenal. Just imagine having to listen to the opinions of such luminaries as Shebby Singh (A Spud no less !),on what is wrong with MY club and how AW should be running it.

    On this site I have made a few friends and have contacted each other by email, and at the same time having a laugh at the fools who show up here and be exactly that- fools !

    I have always been a fun loving person , and I like to think that I have over the years given some cheer and a couple of laughs to the Untold Arsenal faithful. And that is not going to stop anytime !
    Cheers !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A ( fill in race/nationality ) got so frustrated at the number of jokes made about him and his kin , that he goes to his wife and says, ” Tell me a joke in which I am not involved .”

    The wife smiles , and says , ” I an pregnant !”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sorry ..”… am pregnant !”

  • Sorry I can’t come up with an article about true and fake fans, because that’s not how I see it.

  • jjgsol

    I Have been a fan/supporter, call it what you will, since my late father took me to my first game at Highbury more than 50 years ago, when we beat Fulham 2-0.

    I think that there is a difference between those fans who went through the barren years, and who are, I think, more tolerant of lack of success, and those who have joined us in more recent years, when they have tasted the glory times, without having experienced the turgid disappointments of the Wright/Howe/Neil eras.

    I think the former approach our current situation in a positive way, because we have seen much worse, whilst the latter, do not appreciate what we have, only thinking about what we had.

    I wish that the latter showed more understanding and appreciate that not everyone can win the whole time.

    We can enjoy the camaraderie and the friendship, without having to win every time.

  • Gord

    Congratulations Brickfields, even if it is surprising news. 🙂