What is good at City is that the fans are truly fans. They love you. Arsenal have a lot of fans who are not fans. Arsenal have fans from America and Jamaica. Today they are Arsenal fans, tomorrow they will be Liverpool fans and after tomorrow they will be Manchester United fans. — Emanuel Adebayor.
I hate flying. Hate actually isn’t a strong enough word, I’m terrified of flying and I dread getting on a plane. Even when I drop my friends off at the airport I get a pit in my stomach. I actually think that perhaps I’ll never see them again.
Yes, it’s irrational, but then no one has ever accused me of rational thought. How could they, I get up every morning at 4am and write for two to three hours about some “soccer” team in England? That’s completely irrational, right?
Back to the flying thing; it was Arsenal’s last year at Highbury, I was going through a nasty divorce, I caught pneumonia, and I had just had my motorcycle stolen, one of the worst years of my life. At that point I had nothing to lose, literally. So, I called the doctor and he gave me some pharmacueticals to get me on the plane and I flew to London for a week. No tickets to the game, no clue even where to get tickets, just blind faith that somehow, some way, I would get in to see Arsenal; a club I had supported for nearly 10 years.
I ended up staying in this utter shithole of a hotel, right in Picadilly Circus, which had a brilliant concierge who promised me match tickets to see Arsenal play Charlton… for $150. Yes, I knew I was getting ripped off, but so what? I just flew 4800 miles in a rickety deathtrap and was staying in a hotel which was populated mainly by chain smoking Germans who complained incessantly about the breakfast buffet, what was a little rodgering by the concierge if it meant I could get to Highbury before they tore it down to make room for rich people’s 1 bedroom apartments?
And it was totally worth it, pfff $150 was cheap. The moment I mounted those steps (an hour before the 7am, erm, I mean, 3pm kickoff) and rose above the crest to see the Highbury pitch I knew that I was home.
I had never felt anything like that before. It was this mixture of awe and satisfaction. At every turn there was something old that was new to me: the clock end, I had never seen the clock before. The guns in the seats on the other stand, how could I have known those were there since every match I’d ever seen up to that point had been on television and Highbury was always sold out? The crush of bodies as I foolishly tried to take a piss at half-time, the songs that the drunken fans were singing on the concourse, and throughout the game, unintelligible to me, again, since I’d only ever seen them on television and yet brilliant in their communal joy.
One of the players who would become special for me on that day would be Emmanuel Adebayor. Here was this lanky African working his balls off all over the pitch and truly reveling in his game. On that beautifully crisp, cold day, Adebayor missed plenty of chances (which would become a major criticism later on) some of which were wide open, but there was one moment where he used his strength to get over the Charlton defender and then rounded on the keeper and simply scored a brilliant goal.
Since that day I have always supported Adebayor. I think more than once my support of the guy has actually lost me readers but then, I don’t care about that. I only care about the Arsenal. In the season when he scored 30 goals, I had readers who decried Adebayor as “profligate” and said that Henry would have score 50 if he had the chances that Ade had. I showed them statistically how he was nearly as good as Thierry Henry in his conversion rate and how he was actually more of a team player because he demanded the ball less and took fewer shots to get the same number of goals.
When he went apeshit in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea I equivocated. After all, it wasn’t his fault, he was wrongly sent off for something Eboue did, of course he’s going to be emotional. I think I said something like “I just wish he had left the pitch in an orderly fashion, but who could blame him after John Obi-Mikel had been kicking everyone off the pitch?”
When he went full retard last year and gave that fateful interview in which he said he wanted to play for “one of the biggest clubs in the world,” I made excuses and scoured the internet for retractions from the player.
When he went into ludicrous mode and kissed the badge after the summer of his discontent, I still defended him. Albeit, at this point I was starting to feel a little shame.
And when he spent the entire year lolling around on the pitch, seemingly happy in his pay rise, well, I tried. I really really tried to get behind him but even I could no longer support this man who had betrayed Arsenal so deeply. I still would never have booed him but I did understand where the frustration came from.
Because at Arsenal it doesn’t matter so much if you miss goals, what matters is 100% commitment. Look at what Eboue has shown! In the face of much more adversity than Adebayor ever saw, Eboue has simply kept his chin up, worked hard and never complained about the boss or the fans. Fans literally booed Eboue off the pitch in a torrent of hatred and tears and all he did was get back to work. He didn’t complain about the treatment he got, he didn’t get caught offside, he didn’t go into a Champions League semi-final and look as if he couldn’t give two fucks what happened on the pitch: he just went straight back to work and did his job.
That’s all we want, a player who is going to give his all for the cause, for the Arsenal.
Even more than last year’s farewell fuck you to the club that Adebayor supposedly loved and the manager that he claims he appreciates, was this weekend’s disgraceful display which was preceded by an outrageous statement. Prior to the match, Adebayor made the comment which I printed at the very start of this article. That the problem at Arsenal and the reason he left and the reason for his pitiful performances last year, is that Arsenal have American and Jamaican (???) fans.
I have a pretty thick skin about this issue, developed over years of having UK supporters come onto my blog and say I can’t really be a fan because I’m an American. When the Sounders joined the MLS, I had loads of people telling me to write a blog about and support my local team, that, again, I couldn’t possibly REALLY support Arsenal. And when I travel to London the looks I get from the locals when I tell them that this is my vacation and that this is what I love to do; fly 9000 miles to see my beloved Arsenal in person, every year, without fail. Those looks and the jibes, well, you just have to get used to them.
But for some reason this year the xenophobia around this issue has reached new heights. There has been a marked increase in the number of people who come in here and call me and my readers fake fans and tell us to fuck off and support United. Then Adebayor makes his statement and again specifically targets American fans. An then today this was followed by an article in EPL Talk which again repeats this smear.
It’s sad and illogical, really. Is Arseblogger any less of an Arsenal supporter because he’s Irish? Was he somehow less of an Arsenal supporter when he was an Irishman blogging from Spain who only got to see an odd handful of matches in person? Are my readers, who get up at 4am to watch Arsenal on television, folks who are members of the club, lesser supporters simply by the providence of their birth?
What’s really crazy though is to hear City fans talking about being a “real” supporter. What are they going to do if their club breaks into the top four by displacing Liverpool and suddenly they are faced with the same situation that happened to Chelsea? Are they going to actually decry the bandwagon jumpers who are helping to support their club? No, because it’s mind-bogglingly stupid and obviously xenophobic, though I’m starting to wonder if mind-bogglingly stupid and obviously xenophobic aren’t inherent traits of the City supporter.
Arsenal fans are Arsenal fans the world over and they are all welcome to support this club. The fact that I was privileged to get to see Arsenal play at Highbury doesn’t make me more of a fan than anyone else, it just means that I was lucky. Hell, I know I’m lucky and I’m grateful for the fact that the job I have and my lovely family affords me the luxury to see Arsenal in person every year. I would never lord that over someone else. How could I tell some poor kid from North London who has never seen Arsenal in person but who worships Walcott that he’s less of a fan than me?
To me it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been watching Arsenal for 5 minutes or 50 years, whether you watch them on a shitty internet feed in Australia or are afforded the outrageous luxury to see every home and away match in person, whether you are a full red level member of the club or just a casual supporter, if you say you love the Arsenal then you’re alright in my book.
Anyone who says anything else is just projecting their own frail support for their club and it’s fitting that something like that would come from the mouth of a man like Emmanuel Adebayor: the poster child for frail support.