Over the years, foreign fans throughout the Premier League have got a raw deal. They have been accused of not being real fans. Not understanding the passion for the game. Not having the same loyalty as English based fans. They have been derided and often, when it comes to a debate via a message board, the common response is ‘Your opinion means nothing as you are not from England.’
Whilst in the past, these points could have been valid, is it still the case that foreign fans of Premier League clubs can still be labeled as clueless, not having loyalty, not being bandwagon jumpers and lacking passion?
When you look at The Arsenal tour of Asia this summer, the atmosphere within the stadiums was incredible. Louder than the Emirates during most of the games. And non-stop. Yes, some argued that those same fans would turn up in their Manchester City shirts if it was Manchester City playing, or their Chelsea shirts if Chelsea were playing, but surely these fans would be in the minority. Surely now, with the globalisation of football, a foreign fan should be considered as an equal to their English counterpart?
These days, a lot of foreign fans have not just jumped on the bandwagon of the Premier League. There are genuine fans out there that have supported us since pre-teens, just like many fans in England would have started their proper support of the club around the age of 10. Is a 22 year old Arsenal fans who has supported Arsenal since 10 any different to an English Arsenal fan that has supported since 10?
Yes, they might not get the passion of the stadium, of the match going fan, but having been in a few bars throughout the world where Arsenal have been playing, they are as passionate as the stadium. To label them as anything as passionless is disgraceful. Would you label the Twelve Pins or The George or the Gunners as passionless on a game day?
I follow two people who highlight the passion of fans not in England. The first is @LordHillWood, a ex-pat living in Poland. The stories he tells of the Polish Arsenal fans shows anything but a lack of passion. The way they get to the pub early to ‘decorate’ it. The chucking out of Spurs fans. It shows real passion. Not just from the ex-pats but also from the Polish born fans. The second is @SSGooner, a Malaysian fan. Again, there is no lack of passion. from him when it comes to game day, with each match brilliantly planned.
I also speak to few Australian fans. They always seem to be awake when Arsenal are playing. Always watching them game. Even if it is 3am in the morning. How about that for commitment? When you see some English-based fans barely even being able to get out of bed for a 12.45 ko, or ducking out on a European game due to a hard day at work or its a little cold, these foreign fans seem to be able to wake up and watch the games, no matter the consequence of sleep deprivation for the next day.
Then we come to the knowledge of the fans. This is somewhere where the foreign fans and English fan are more then equal. In fact, some would argue tha many foreign fans are more knowledgable, as they actually study the game, whilst the Englishman turns up, watch’s the game drunk, then continues to drink.
Two little stories. One is of a friend who went to Ethiopia on a business trip recently. Upon his cab driver discovering he was an Arsenal fan, he was then lectured for half an hour, by the Ethiopian cabbie, on what Arsene Wenger was doing wrong, how he should be sacked, and questioning why we had not signed anyone. From the sounds of it, he was spot on. Had it been a black cab driver in London, nothing would have been mentioned. It was a clear that there was not a knowledge gap.
The second little story is of a friend at the game. Behind him was two American’s discussing the game. Whilst they did use frustrating American terminology, their knowledge was impeccable. Even as far as talking about how Sagna was only playing at centre back in an emergency, that the young lad at right back was Arsenal through and through, and whilst good going forward, was often found out in defence.
They then went on a 10 minute discussion about the bench. Gnarby. Zelalem. Akpom. Had the been talking in cockney accents, it would have been normal. But in their American accents, it just showed to my friend how football was a truly global game.
With Facebook bringing fans together from around the world to discuss games. Twitter providing instant information. All 38 league games being available online. British newspaper’s being available online throughout the world. Add in podcasts and blogs -this blog gets a lot of readers from Scandanvia, there is plenty of information available throughout the world to educate the foreign fans, to whet there appetite.
Are we now in a time when foreign fans can no longer be labelled clueless, but are in fact the footballing intellectual equals of those from England?