20 years ago, my family left England to return to south Africa. It was a difficult time in my homeland with many south Africans fearing a full on civil war. Happily, nothing of the sort happened, yet there I was, a continent away from the home of the football team I fell in love with during my short time in England. I think it was during the george Graham years when I watched the lads in red and white play football and knew that this was the team for me. I particularly felt a bond here. I can't tell you what it was, but I knew there was no going back. It was a cold winter in '91 when I first visited Highbury. I bought myself my first gunners scarf, the very same one I have to this day. My fate was sealed, gooner for life!!!
Then we left, and although a million miles separated me from the team I love, the love never faded. And although in the '90s, there was no such thing as satellite tv broadcasting matches in South Africa, the love never faded. And even though, all around me there were two teams supported in South Africa, Man U and Liverpool, the love never faded.
Then came the truly good times, the really really good times, and along with those good times, came new fans, who didn't quite love the team for the club, rather they loved the team for the trophies. Yet still the love never faded, rather it became more defined and refined.
Then came the bad times. Well... Bad is subjective, and even though the were no trophies, it was still my team, and goddamn it, the football played was trophy enough in my books. You see, bragging rights mean less when you don't live in England, and trophies are merely bragging rights set in metal. And even though all of those new fans started disappearing due to lack of physical bragging rights, that love grew and grew.
Then I moved to a new continent, and I learned a new language and started watching a new football team. A team that actually won trophies and even beat Arsenal on their way to winning one of those trophies (Argentine Arsenal that is) and even though I fell in love with this new team, particularly their passionate fans, that love never shadowed that older and more established love, rather it served to once again define and refine that love.
So, 20 years have passed, and here I am, riding the tube from heathrow to charing cross. The first thing to trigger the memory isn't sight or sound, but rather, it's the smell. There is something so quintessentially English about the smell of the tube. And that smell triggered the remembering of so many things. Mostly it reminded me of where that long lasting love spawned.
I'm back and that love is stronger than ever. I haven't been home yet, but you can bet your mothers life that that is exactly where you'll find me, pretty damn soon!!!
A lot has changed. In fact almost everything has. However, home is where the heart is, and my heart bleeds red and white. It's been 20 years, two decades, and of all the things that have changed, the one thing that hasn't, is that love that never dies, the love for the greatest football team in the world. A team that doesn't need external validation, because it's soo damn beautiful in it's own right.
So, keep it VCC and remember why exactly you love this team, regardless of your age, origin or gender.
Guest Post Writer: Mr H