Hello, Arsenal Vision folks.
For those of you unfamiliar with me, I’m a native Bristolian and an occasional visitor to The Emirates. I don’t have a season ticket, I’m not a member of the AST. By the definition many, I’m not a ‘real’ supporter.
A lot of folks seem to have a problem with that. There is an elitist view amongst some that if you don’t reside with a certain distance of the ground, then your entire existence as a supporter is a fallacy. I wildly disagree with that. Not because it’s a means of excusing my supposed failings, but because I believe supporting a football team is something that should occur organically, and not be dictated to you by locale.
When I was a boy, I grew up in the 80s dominated by Liverpool. All my school friends adorned themselves in those awful shirts with “Candy’ as the sponsor and scuttled around the playground gleefully exclaiming themselves to be Ian Rush or John Barnes. I couldn’t join in with them. My allegiances took a different course, and ended up at Highbury. It’s difficult to explain exactly why, all I recall is the chord struck in me by the stadium, the players, the attitude of the club and its fans. I didn’t choose Arsenal because it was a popular thing to do. They chose me, and we've been snuggling bedfellows ever since.
Some 25 years later, I’m still an avid Gooner. What I lack in regular attendance, I make up with the enthusiasm to view as much game footage as possible. I make pilgrimages to the home of football when free time allows me to do so - I work most Saturday’s. As was the case with my childhood, I'm still surrounded by Liverpool fans. Somethings just don't change, do they?
If you were to compare me with somebody like Tim Stillman, someone who is as immersed in Arsenal as I think it’s humanly possible to be, then I agree that the dichotomy of ‘real’ and ‘armchair’ fans has a lot of weight. I’ve never met Tim, but I get the impression his entire life revolves around The Gunners. He is the perfect definition of a ‘real’ supporter.
My point is; it’s physically impossible for everyone to be like that. Those that can’t attend everything, shouldn’t be chastised by others. The footballing world today is a global community. Arsenal have fans in all the corners of the world, made up by a plethora of varying ethnicities. I follow Arsenal because I love them, and because it’s something very visceral to me. We’re all part of an enormous Gooner family, wherever we may come from.
Singling out some members as ineligible or having no right to be a part of such a thing smacks of pure idiocy to me. I won’t be told I can’t love Arsenal because I don’t live in London by anyone. I don’t pretend that I am a ‘real’ supporter, I never have. I am what I am; a different kind of supporter, but a supporter nonetheless.
Thanks for reading, folks. I hope you enjoyed it. I look forward to reading some of the comments below. You can keep up with my blog and blathering @_ArmchairGooner.