I have a dream.
By Paul Blythe (With obvious apologies)
Fourteen years ago, a great Frenchman, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the first of his many contracts. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Arsenal Fans who had been seared in the flames of the withering injustice of tedious football. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But many, many years later, we must face the tragic fact that the true fan is still not free. The life of the Arsenal Fan is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. Fourteen long years later, the Arsenal Fan lives on a lonely island of relative poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. Fourteen years later, the Arsenal Fan is still languishing in the corners of English media society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So dear reader we have come here to Untold Arsenal today to give voice to an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our virtual, spiritual Highbury homeland to cash a cheque. When the architects of our mighty game wrote the magnificent words of our footballing constitution, rules and the declaration of referee’s independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every Arsenal Fan was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all players would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of fairness, safety, and the pursuit of sporting happiness.
It is obvious today that the Football Association has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of sporting purity are concerned. Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, the Football Association has given the average Arsenal Fan a bouncing cheque which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of footballing justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this great sport. So we have come to re-present this cheque, a cheque that will give us upon demand, the riches of fairness and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot of Untold Arsenal, to remind Football Association of the fierce urgency of now.
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of marginalisation to the sunlit path of sporting justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of football’s children. Now is the time to lift our sport from the quick sands of injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the Football Association to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Arsenal faithful. This chilling Winter of the Arsenal Fan’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating Spring of freedom and equality. Two thousand and ten is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Arsenal Fan’s needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the Football Association returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquillity in the Emirates until the Arsenal Fan is granted his justifiable rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our sport until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my fellow fans that stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical or verbal violence, or enter the grove of infighting and back biting. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with righteous resistance. The marvellous new militancy which has engulfed the Arsenal community must not lead us to distrust of all footballing people, for many of our footballing brothers, as evidenced by their reading of this today, will have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of Untold Arsenal, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of sporting battle, injured by the talentless, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of sporting justice. We cannot be satisfied as long as the player’s basic mobility is from a smaller injury to a larger career threatening one. We can never be satisfied as long as an Arsenal Fan in London will not be heard and an Arsenal Fan in Cape Town believes he has nothing for which to speak out for. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like the waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some readers have come here out of great trials and tribulations of their own. Some have come fresh from narrow cells and strict confines of anti-football. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of player brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering and rotational fouling. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Stoke, go back to Sheffield, go back to Bolton, go back to Blackburn, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in Arsene Wenger’s dream.
I have a dream that one day this footballing nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the slag heaps of Sunderland the sons of former leg-breakers and the sons of Gooners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Citeh, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my team will one day play in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their passport but by the content of their footballing character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Blackburn, whose manager’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where Gooners will be able to join hands with their Northern cousins and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Wengerball shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return home, to the Emirates. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our national game into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to play together, to struggle together, to go to the bar together, to stand up for fairness together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of football’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My club, ’tis of thee, sweet field of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my player’s tried, land of the true fan’s pride, from every mountainside,
And if true football is to be a sport, this must become true.
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hillsides of Stoke!
Let freedom ring from the hospitals of Sheffield!
Let freedom ring from the valleys of Charlton!
Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Rocastle!
Let freedom ring from under the stones of Notlob!
But not only that; let freedom ring from the Brokeback Mountains of Sunderland!
Let freedom ring from tiny hills of Tottenham!
Let freedom ring from every molehill of Manchester!
From every mountainside, weir side, riverside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every club in every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of football’s children, black men and white men, Spuds and Gooners, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,
“Free at last! Free at last! Thank Arsene Almighty, we are free at last!”
It is not a case of where Liverpool will finish in the league, but whether they will survive at all.
Win two free tickets for the match at club level plus all the food you can throw a stick at (Actually I don’t think that is quite right – I mean why would you throw a stick at food – Ed?)
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