Sport

The pains of being an Arsenal fan

As someone who became a fan of the Arsenal Football Club in 2005, finding a reason to celebrate success has been very hard. From then to now, there has been only one constant at the club – le professeur Arsene Wenger, and I’ve been his big follower, having a huge respect for the style of play he brought in to the club. Win or lose, Arsenal played attractive football. He brought a lot of fans in the process, and the club had hardly any haters. Though that was partly due to the fact that we didn’t win anything, and fans of other teams don’t hate teams which are harmless anyway. He revolutionised the football club, the economist inside him responsible for the brand new, swanky 60000 capacity stadium materialising in North London and made Arsenal FC a self sufficient, profit making club which didn’t need funds to be pumped from rich owners like neighbours Chelsea or Manchester City. The owners were happy, fans were reasonably happy.

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There are a few clubs like this one. And it was a proud moment as fans. Except for one regret. We couldn’t produce success on the pitch like we did off it. Since the Invincibles won the Premier League in 2003-04, it’s been 12 years, and though we came close a couple of times and won the FA Cup twice in the last two years, injuries, lack of form or poor performances against rivals derailed the title challenge. This season is no different. Having been top of the league in January, we’ve now managed to get to the Arsenal Trophy as they call it now – the perpetual 4th place. Yes, getting into the top four guarantees another year of UEFA Champions League football, which brings in around £40 million annually, but apart from that, there is no real significance. Other teams enter a competition to win it, while Arsenal enters to get more money and become more financially stable.

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As an average human, the hardest thing to handle is when hope is taken away. And for fans who are invested in a club so devotedly, watching the club fail year after year is mental agony. It is a kind of misery which is very hard to explain, and overcome. Hope is what drives anyone, and not having hope is better than killing a hope towards the end of the year. Not to mention fans of other clubs who waste no opportunity to mock us or pity us. No man likes pity.

I envy the small clubs, for the fact that they have minimal ambitions. Arsenal is an ambitious football club having ambitious fans, and when the bubble breaks every year, it only gets harder to handle.

People say Arsenal play good football, beautiful intricate passing and score amazing goals, but they don’t have it in them to win it. Nobody can disagree with that. What they lack is the mental steel. Players who don’t step up when it matters. The naivety, which the manager keeps pointing out. Next season is going to be more competitive than ever. With Guardiola, Mourinho and Klopp to deal with, plus the small clubs who are getting stronger now, it’s going to be very intense.

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Fans want drastic measures to be taken. They are protesting. They want the majority shareholders out. They want Wenger out, though he said he will see out his contract which has another year left. I don’t know if things will change. But all I know is, there is only one thing that will not change. The fans’ undying love for Arsenal Football Club. Even if the hope is raised and killed year after year, people won’t stop going to matches. They will continue to watch every single match on TV wherever they are in the world. They will not stop buying jerseys and flaunt it wherever they go. They will prioritise Arsenal over other commitments.  And I am one such fan. There has to come a time when the fans get something in return for the emotional attachment they’ve had all these years. I really hope it comes sooner, rather than later.

If there’s one thing Arsenal has taught me, it is to be able to handle the way elation drops to despair in a matter of 30 minutes. I would credit Arsenal for that. To have made me into a better man; one who can handle pressure and mood swings better than most.

 

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