The Arsenal and Me – Shan’s Story

Well how I became an Arsenal fan was by chance, and mostly because of Arsenal’s superiority over Spurs. My Dad in his younger years took an interest in Spurs and subsequently adopted them as his team, my Mum on the other hand, who’d been brought up mostly in North London took a page out of her brothers’ book and became a fan of the Arsenal. So in my younger years; I believe I was about 3-4, a few days before the North London derby at dinner my parents were having a squabble debating who I supported, and in my wisdom I suggested whoever wins that North London Derby I was to support. Well obviously Arsenal won it and I became a gooner, much to my Dad’s dismay. Quite ironically before this, I didn’t have much of an interest in supporting a football team, I enjoyed playing the sport with friends but after that day I fell in love with Arsenal.

I spent quite a while away from London, my family relocated to Kenya in 2002 for a period of 6 years. One quite brilliant story was that the headmaster at my primary school was a Spurs fan, and with him and my Dad being mates I cheekily suggested as an 8 year old boy that I make another bet on the North London Derby during the 02/03 season that if Arsenal would win he’d have to buy me and my sisters (I have 2) ice creams from the school cafeteria, and if Spurs were to win I’d have to write a short essay. Arsenal won with Thierry Henry scoring THAT solo goal and I was that much happier scoffing down some ice-cream. My time in Kenya also brought me my first and and last tear from football, both against Chelsea. First was during the Unbeaten season when we were knocked out of the Champions League undeservedly through Wayne Bridge’s goal, second was during the final season at Highbury when Chelsea beat us 2-0 at home. 

My first game was reasonably late considering I had lived in London, it was Newcastle on the first day of the final season at Highbury. I was seated in the North Bank next to my cousin, I had a Thierry Henry shirt on my back and I felt like nothing could go wrong and Mr. Henry did not disappoint. We won the match 2-0 through an Henry penalty and a late Van Persie goal, I was over the moon, the atmosphere was electric and it’s one thing hearing songs sung on the tele, but to be in the middle of 38, 000 fans singing was something quite incredible. An experience I’ll always treasure. I was quite the tourist at that point, forcing my Spurs supporting Dad to take me to Highbury just to see what it was like in other parts of the stadium, inside the marble halls and whatnot; I was not dissapointed. I only wish I was able to see more games at Highbury because the atmosphere felt that day I’ve not felt on many occasions at the Emirates.

My next visit to the UK from Kenya brought me my first game at the Emirates, a cold winters game against Blackburn Rovers. We smashed them 6-2 and I remember seeing Cesc Fabregas absolutely destroy Robbie Savage in the corner leading to a Flamini goal (although it should have been Cesc’s). During that visit I even managed to go on a stadium tour of the Emirates and met Charlie George and spotted our now assistant manager Steve Bould; these were all quite riveting when you’re a young boy living in Africa.

When I finally did come back to live in London in August 2008, I was truly excited, finally I’d have the opportunity to watch the Arsenal on occasions at the Emirates. Although, during that season I did witness my first loss at the Emirates, a stale 1-2 loss to Hull City with Geovanni scoring one of the best goals I’ve seen live. I saw a few more games that season, including Eduardo’s beach-volley against Burnley, a player who I truly wish was able to carve more of a career for himself at the Arsenal (we could do with him now). The following season, I went to my first North London Derby as a birthday present from my Aunt. That was quite possibly the best I’ve ever felt the Emirates stadium. Spurs were bigging themselves up as they always do  thinking that ‘this was their year’. I remember this game so vividly I can remember Bac crossing it to Van Persie for our first goal, after the goal I dropped my programme on the floor as they were kicking off, a second later, I look up and I see Cesc poking the ball through Ledley (not so much of a) King’s legs for our second. That has to be my favourite goal I’ve ever seen, truly amazing. Van Persie later wrapped up the game with the final score being 3-0. Walking back to the station after that was an amazing experience in it’s own right, the Spurs fans looking dejected and the Arsenal fans chanting ‘Red Army’: 10/10.

Since then I go to about 10-15 home games a year, school permitting. I’ve seen us lose to the likes of Swansea, Spurs and have a major fuck-up against Liverpool (Eboue), but one of my favourite moments of all time was seeing Thierry Henry pull the Red and White jersey back on. Henry was, and is my favourite player, I modelled my game on him (albeit poorly); I was more of a work horse midfielder than a striker, but nonetheless he is my idol. So when he did come back I was able to see him play against Blackburn Rovers and score his final goal at the Emirates, although it was classed as an own goal, I still hold in my heart that it was his.

My support of Arsenal on the whole is undying, being quite young I’ve eagerly saved money during the summer before every season and bought the Home and Away shirts. Since i’ve done that I’ve acquired an Arsenal shirt collection of 25, and growing. My favourite shirt being our latest away one; everything about it is right. Although supporting Arsenal since 2005 has been difficult, our injury luck is beyond shit and our squad depth, poor mentality and shit players have cost us majorly during that time. That being said, I have always been firmly behind Wenger (besides the Bradford loss, after that I thought he and Gervinho could fuck right off), and I do think good times are on the horizon. There is something special about this team, we have solid back four, an in-form keeper, the best midfield in the premiership and a beautiful Frenchman leading the line. To me, that sounds a little like the Arsenal of old…

Shan

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