Can foreigners be ‘real’ Arsenal fans? – Global Gooner Sundays

I’ve always found football
discourse on Twitter to be quite fascinating. Like any other powerful online
tool, Twitter is what you make of it; you could use it just to follow football
players, but you could also learn a lot about your club, the lives of those who
live a few minutes away from your club’s stadium, or whatever happens at
supporters’ association gatherings (AST meetings, for instance).

But every football fan
on Twitter has, at some point or the other, seen *that* argument about foreign
football fans transpire.

You know, the “you’re-not-from-here-so-you’re-not-a-true-supporter”
feud. The one between different permutations and combinations of foreign fans
justifying their love for their beloved football clubs, skeptical local fans
making the accusations, and other local fans that understand that where you live
does not affect one’s love for a football club.

Ultimately, in my
humble opinion, it all boils down to exposure. Those who are under the
impression that foreign fans aren’t “true” fans, are more often than
not simply unaware and uninformed about the rest of the world, and about how
popular the Premier League and its clubs truly are.

But hopefully this
debate will be put to bed with the release of The World In Red & White,
a fan-made documentary film about Arsenal fans across the globe. I came across the
trailer a few days ago, and it would be an understatement to say that I’m
excited about this film.

‘The World in Red & White’ // Official Trailer from RedWhiteFilm on Vimeo.

There are probably a
number of reasons as to why I think the concept of documenting foreign
supporters of a football club is important, and I could talk about each reason
for ages – but the most important is the fact that this movie could expose
people who might be unaware to what it is truly like to support a club
thousands of miles away from where they live.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to
talk to the man behind The World in Red & White, Daniel
Atkinson
. (Follow Daniel and the progress of The World in Red & White on Facebook, Twitter, and Vimeo!)

Tell us a
little about yourself. How’d you get into filmmaking, and what inspired you to
make The World in Red & White?

“What inspired
me to make The World in Red & White
is really the landscape that we have entered now as supporters over the past
few years or so and the amazing, great and insightful things that we are
getting up to right across the globe. I’m a great believer in podcasts, blogs
and, to an extent, video-based things that are going on (not just in the UK) as
sports fans and with this film I really wanted to push these boundaries once
again.

“Secondly –
it’s got to be the fans themselves! You know, we only have to take a step back
and look at things like the Asia tours which have been hugely successful to see
what support is like for you to want to know and explore that little bit more.

“And then in
terms of myself, if I was to be honest, I’d say that this is fact my first
‘real’ film. I’ve only entered the industry over the past couple of years so
I’m only just starting to find my feet, so in that respect The World in Red & White is like my first child – if you can
see it like that!”

You decided
to go to Switzerland and the Philippines and meet Gooners in those countries.
Why did you pick these two countries – and do you think they’re in some ways
representative of what the average Arsenal fan is in Europe and Asia?

“We picked
these two countries for a variety of reasons but the main reason I would say is
contrast.

“As you will
see in the film itself and in the films concluded remarks, both the Philippines
and Switzerland are two examples of two contrasting countries which I think,
especially from a filmmaker’s perspective gives great representation of just a
small selection of the Arsenal fan base, but also sums up the one love and one
reason that connects the Arsenal fan base together.

“Secondly, I wouldn’t
say they are entirely representative of both continents – fans come in all
shapes and sizes, attitudes and ideologies but the great thing is that as I’ve
said above, we are all there, hopefully proactively, for the same reason,
because of Arsenal Football Club.”

Lots of fans
have debated time and again about the legitimacy of international support,
considering some might not necessarily spend as much money as season ticket
owning North London resident would on the Arsenal. I’d love to hear what you think
about this debate particularly after making this film – in your eyes, what
defines a “true supporter”? Are international supporters “true
supporters”?

“Absolutely!
Of course international supporters are true supporters and I think you would
have to live in a glass bottle to argue against that, especially with the rise
of the ‘global village’ we live in today.

“I think now
as a global sports fan we are on the cusp of good, positive collaboration with
other ‘international supporters’ and in terms of sport in general, football is
really taking the lead on that. We can see great ‘supporting collisions’ going
on with things like the IPL in India for instance and definitely as an Arsenal
fan, between fans in the UK and the US as well.

“Then looking
at the idea of ‘true supporters’ in general is a tricky one and one with no
definitive definition and plenty of opinions, but as you will see in The World in Red & White the
President of Arsenal Philippines probably sums it up best:

There will be fans that will come and go but
the fans that will stay will be the lifeblood of the club.”

I think there
are a number of potential reasons as to why documenting the kind of
international support Arsenal has is of great importance – but if you had a
minute to convince a fellow Arsenal supporter as to why watching this movie is
important, what would you say?

“For me, I
think it’s important not to take for granted the support the club has globally
and to really appreciate how great it is to be part of such a wide, dynamic and
forward thinking family if you like.

“I think we
are very lucky to have fans all over the globe, both in terms of the great
places we originate from, but also in terms of the sheer numbers of supporters
we have. For me, the club is in great hands that way and God forbid if
something went terribly wrong with the club, administration being a number of
them, we have a great worldwide fan base who I genuinely believe would be ready
and willing to do everything to sustain their club.”

Any word on a
potential release date?

“Not as yet,
we are still working hard putting the finishing touches to the film. As many
may or may not know, I’m almost a one-man band producing this film, so its been
quite difficult making sure all of the things are looking great but I’m proud
of what I have achieved so far. But in terms of the films release keep your eye
on the Twitter and Facebook pages for info on that.”

And where can
people both in the UK and across the world buy and watch the film? 

“The same
again goes for this one – keep your eyes on our social media pages – but for those
who have donated the film will be sent to you when the film has been
completed.  We are hoping to get the film
into a few film festivals and as for our own screening night – that is still in
the pipeline.

“Hopefully
after this, we should be able to get the full film available for general
release so that everyone can enjoy the film via Vimeo On Demand. Also if any supporters club globally who would
like to get in touch for their own screening night for the film itself, please
do get in touch!”

What’s next for you as a film-maker?

“The
next step for me is to really help get ‘The World in Red & White’ out there
as much as possible and especially to as many Gooners as possible! I’m also
trying to work up and continue making sports films and ones that are Arsenal
connected with some ideas already in the works. For me though, just like being
a fan, its a collaborative experience and if there are people
out there interested in working together on more Arsenal related
projects, do get in touch!

Thank you Daniel, and we all look forward to the
release of The World in Red & White!

For any of you
that would like to follow Daniel and the progress of The World in Red & White – you can do so on Facebook, Twitter, and Vimeo! Or get in
touch with Daniel directly via email.

And if you’d
like to learn more about the documentary, be sure to watch the following video

‘The World in Red and White’ Pitch Film (Extended) from RedWhiteFilm on Vimeo.

Adithya Manjunath

5 Responses to Can foreigners be ‘real’ Arsenal fans? – Global Gooner Sundays

  1. Dom MJ Mangles May 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Interesting argument, not one I’ve come across before.

    For me I break it down into a micro and macro level. You have the football club and it’s local community. The club is an intrinsic part of the daily lives of those that live in the community that founded that club as an expression of itself. The ideals of the community are broadcast through their club. These ideals will then pick up other supporters. So for me, a foreign fan is not only a fan of the football club whose shirt they wear, but actually they are a fan of the community that bred that club.

    So it boils down to this; are you part of the club? or are you merely a fan of the club? Long distance fans have got to be the latter.

    • Grant Timm May 13, 2013 at 5:37 am #

      Whether you are a native fan or not it does not really matter. The common cause is to support the club everyone loves, as a collective. And with the advancement of technology it makes it easier for fans to understand the club and its history, keep up to date with the latest events and add their objective views too. Regardless my belief is that if you support the Gunners, in my book you are one. That shows we can fill any stadium in the world with avid Gunners fans. Beside you can find many local fans that will not even have the passion or insight to the club as many foreigners do.

      So Dom what you are trying to say is that foreigners should go support other clubs, or clubs in their country. So basically you chasing valued supporters away. Ok im cool with that, we do need more Manu fans in the world, or Chelsea or Liverpool.

    • June Mata May 13, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      To respond to the comment above:

      I think the question of being "a part of the club" vs. "a fan of the club," as stated here, is something of a false divide. Being part of a fanbase itself is to be part of something greater, to share in solidarity and connect with other people who devote themselves to the same passions as you. As Arsenal commits to its global fanbase, so the global fanbase has committed to Arsenal. We’re all part of the club. Gooners abroad do not and cannot support their club the same way London Gooners can, but they partake of the Arsenal community all the same. We watch matches. We cheer on the lads. We worry during transfer season. We stand with other Gooners, whether via social media or local fanclubs. This devotion and sense of belonging is the same, and it’s very real, whether you’re from Islington or Indonesia. As Arsenal grows, the Gooner identity will grow – not change, but grow with the support of all who love Arsenal.

      Besides, the distinction of foreign vs. local fan gets tricky when we split geographical hairs. What about Gooners who live close enough to visit London frequently, but live outside of Arsenal’s "local" neighborhood? Where do we draw the line for local vs. foreign then? If a Gooner is from Dublin? From Zurich? Athens?

      “There will be fans that will come and go but the fans that will stay will be the lifeblood of the club.” – beautiful quote. Devotion, not distance, is the final measure of a fan.

  2. mandmappliances@hotmail.com May 13, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    I’m not sure how to respond to Dom MJ Mangles…..I have felt passionately about the Gunners since I watched Pat Jennings in goal when I was wearing a long sleeved green goalies strip and thaought …. wow! he’s just like me! I still get angry, cheer and am happy for days on end; and i haven’t been to the land of the ashes pretenders in my life time!
    I play golf most Saturdays with a mad Gunners fan who played midfield for the Spuds schoolboys. He lived next to Highbury and worked around the square every weekend….now…..lets talk about pigeon holes…..

    COYG

  3. Phade Thasie May 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I’d be interested to know what a "proper fan" would rate me between 1 and 10, 10 being a season-ticket holding/away match-travelling supporter.

    I’m Moroccan, born and bred in Casablanca, but have been a passionate Gooner (albeit without knowing the word) since I discovered the sheer genius and class that was Dennis Bergkamp. In 2008 I was fortunate that work brought me to live in London, where I promptly found a flat near Upper st, exclusively because of Arsenal. I regularly watched games at the Junction, the Herbert Chapman, the Tollington, and a sneaky Irish pub that aired the few games Sky didn’t air through some shady Greek channel. My job couldn’t afford me regular tickets to the Emirates, but clients who wanted my good services knew I could be pleased with their companies’ season tix. I also took my little brother there for his birthday. After my contract ended I decided to stay in London and pursue legal studies, and dutifully moved to cheaper accomodation. This led me to the less glamorous parts of Blackstock rd (because of the proximity to Highbury), Holloway and finally Caledonian road. I somehow never found myself too far from the stadium. On Tuesday September 18th last I hung up on my then girlfriend, now fiancé, at 19h45, because the Montpellier game was about to start. It might be useful to know she was thinking about whether or not to break up with me.

    Today I am back abroad, and Arsenal is the only memorized searchword on my twitter account (along with ‘Cavani’ for those two crazy weeks back in December). I probably read and reread every retweeted comment 10 times each day and everyday, am aware of each rumour despite pertinently knowing Rooney would never (I hope) come to the Emirates, and recalculate the Premier League table like a chess player would: many matchdays ahead, looking at all the relevant surrounding teams’ games.

    Voila. The gentleman’s comment below suggests I should merely be treated as a ‘fan’ of the club. But what, concretely, do the proper day-in/day-out fans call my persistent (some might call it pathologically obsessed) behaviour?

    Cheers

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