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What does a real Arsenal supporter look like?


Every once in a while, someone on Arsenal Twitter makes a certain kind of disparaging comment about other supporters of the club. It is typically a regular matchgoer, someone with a season ticket or who makes it to the Emirates enough that it is a key component of their social life, engaging in gatekeeping with regard to who in the fanbase count as “true” supporters. This then triggers a debate over who deserves to have their Goonerhood taken seriously. Such a comment was made recently, and such a discussion has ensued. And again, many who call themselves fans of the club are left wondering, what does a real Arsenal supporter look like?

A real Arsenal supporter goes to at least a couple dozen matches every season, including some away matches. They regularly pop into Tollington Arms or The Victoria Tavern for a bite and a pint ahead of games. They are on a first-name basis with almost everyone who sits near them at the Emirates, and after the match will meet up with their mates to drown their sorrows in beer or celebrate a little too vigorously. Only an emergency or highly important life events keep them from attending a home game on the weekend.

However, a real Arsenal supporter also gets up at 7 o’clock in the morning to watch their team. They scurry into the living room, still in their pajamas with a freshly made coffee in hand, and frantically flip on the TV just in time for kickoff. One day, they’ll be able to go watch a match in person, and it will be glorious. Every few minutes or so, they’ll check Twitter to see what other fans are saying, and maybe even to fire a joke off before focusing back on the match. As soon as the full-time whistle blows, they go about the rest of their day, running errands or meeting up with friends who don’t follow Arsenal.

But a true fan of the club often misses matches. They work or have other commitments on weekends, or are a single parent, or don’t have access to broadcasts of games. When they can, they watch matches, often after the fact. They might even just rely on match reports and podcasts to get an idea of how things went. But they stay as abreast of results as they can, and relish their few opportunities to watch their team live. Being able to roll into the local Arsenal bar to catch the game with other Gooners would be a dream come true.

A real Arsenal supporter was born into a family of Arsenal supporters. Their siblings are all Gooners, and have been wearing the cannon since they were toddlers . Their father and his siblings were Arsenal supporters as children. He still gleefully tells the story of how he once saw Terry Neill walk into a restaurant he was having dinner at. In a real Arsenal supporter’s family, being a family of any other club was never an option, and being a Spurs fan was a surefire way of getting written out of the will.

But an actual member of the Arsenal faithful also didn’t really pay much attention to football until their teenage years, when they watched Thierry Henry play. They were enthralled with the way the Frenchman would glide through opposing defenses with ease. The impossible feats he made look effortless drew an otherwise apathetic onlooker into Arsenal fandom. These days, they harbor a little resentment toward Henry for convincing them to sign up for all that has followed since he left the club, but deep down they wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And yet, a real Arsenal supporter first became interested in the club through playing as them in a FIFA game. After dozens of wins involving force-feeding the ball to Theo Walcott, they decided to watch the real thing on the television. They have been hooked ever since, through good times and bad.

A truly dedicated Gooner thinks the club should give Mikel Arteta until November to show he is up to the task. They feel it’s only fair to give the team time to gel and adjust to what the manager will ask of them.

But an absolutely committed supporter is disappointed Arteta wasn’t sacked last season. In their opinion, any manager who almost drags Arsenal into a relegation battle should not be given more chances.

A real Arsenal fan blogs about the club weekly and plans to launch a podcast soon, if they haven’t done so already. They are “very online”, engaging with others on Twitter all day, every day.

Undeniably ardent members of the Arsenal faithful choose to lurk and refrain from much interaction online — that is, if they even have a social media account to begin with. The prospect of navigating it all just feels too daunting.

The truth is, Arsenal fans take many forms. They support the club in the best way they know how. That might mean going to as many matches as they can because they live in London. Or perhaps that entails trying to connect with other fans online because they are thousands of miles away and can only enjoy matchdays through a television or laptop screen.

There is no one way to be an Arsenal supporter. That, of course, is a given considering the worldwide nature of the 21st century Arsenal fanbase. So today’s Gooners engage with their club in a practically infinite number of unique ways. They have different routines, trusted sources of information, and opinions on how the club can best move forward. And there is nothing wrong with any of that.

But a good way to not be a proper supporter of Arsenal is to gatekeep that experience from others. Not every fan can go to the Emirates on a regular basis. Not every fan can be from north London. But every true fan retains an undeniable love for the club, and no one, not even those who have held season tickets for a generation, can take that away from them.

What does a real Arsenal supporter look like? It looks like every one of us who feel connected to something bigger than ourselves when we follow and engage with Arsenal Football Club, no matter where we come from, where we watch matches, or how often we tweet about it. And that’s the way it should be.

If you enjoyed this article, follow me on Twitter @dopegooner.

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