As an American Arsenal FC supporter, you get used to hearing from some English fans about how you’re not a “proper supporter” and never really could be, because you can’t attend the matches on a regular basis or you weren’t “born into it”. We’re sort of the ugly stepchildren football fans.
I got drawn into just such an exchange recently on Twitter. Still, for every fan I’ve met with this sort of attitude, I know dozens who welcome you with open arms, perfectly willing to engage in the shared experience of being an Arsenal supporter.
I’m proud to count amongst my friends, London-born Gooners following the club for 30 or more years, who don’t seem to have any issue, with my having been born on the wrong side of the pond.
The Bay Area Gooners are an official branch of Arsenal America, and as such, we subscribe to their mission. This means essentially that our group is for all Gooners around these parts. It makes no difference if you’ve been following them since Highbury or since last week, you’re still welcome to watch with us at the pub.
We may not get to the Emirates much, but we are at the pub every weekend, often as early as 4:45AM to watch the matches live. I have to believe revenue from U.S. television rights and the merchandise we buy, must be as much of a benefit to the club as any money spent in the U.K.
Even stranger than snobbery from British fans, I found myself being taken to task by an American while watching the recent Champions League debacle at Maggie McGarry’s. I was a bit baffled by our conversation, as he did not reveal which club he supported (if any), but was perfectly willing to criticize me and the other Bay Area Gooners in the pub, as not being “real” fans.
Apparently, I’d not been following the club long enough to qualify in his opinion. Much like the Twitter incident, it was a pointless exchange, I should have abandoned sooner rather than later.
Here’s the thing, I fell in love with watching Arsenal and this affair was consumated during my one and only trip to Highbury. I don’t claim to have the history of my friends Mark, who celebrated 50 years of following the club last season, or Jim, whose family has been supporting for generations.
But I love this club and I especially enjoy watching with other Gooners. You can be men, women, English, American, straight, gay, Hungarian, South African, it doesn’t matter to me. I won’t even hold it against you if your all-time favorite Arsenal player is Pascal Cygan (OK, maybe a little) – if you support Arsenal FC, you’re alright with me, and I hope to see you at the pub!
Unless you happen to be a prick.