“…So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.” (Hornby, Fever Pitch)
Years later when I am asked what I cherish and remember most from my journey as an Arsenal fan, I am sure my answer won’t just be the highs of trophies, of the moments of genius (team and individual), of famous, hard-thought wins and flamboyant goals. None of that would have been as much poignant or half as satisfying without the people. Much is written (present company included) about the keyboard warriors, the people who are capable of driving the sane among us insane, the ones who regularly spoil our enjoyment of the beautiful game. Often discussed is how many flipsides there are to be a modern-day fan, in the era of instant gratification and anonymity where the personal and societal barriers have long dissolved. But today is not about that. Today is about the people worth writing about. The people that are part of the reason Arsenal are more than just a club, a genuine way of life. The people who feature in many of my favourite AFC memories.
When I first started following football, it was just me and my sister. 13 years on, I am lucky to say that I have an Arsenal family that transcends barriers of country, language, culture, and time difference.
The Oxford Dictionary defines family as:
- A group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.
- A group of people related by blood or marriage.
- All the descendants of a common ancestor
But what about the family that cannot be defined? The one that you can choose, the one that comes walking into your life, piece by piece, until one day you realise how blessed you are?
My entry into the Twitterverse was accompanied by a begrudged sort of attitude. I made an account because I was told that a writer needed to build up a network of contacts, colleagues and readers. Days and weeks would go by before I checked my profile or timeline, much less post anything. I felt quite disheartened about what I assumed was a waste of time. If you ask me even now what made me stay and slowly start talking to a few people, which included Gooners (Joe Tilley, I’m looking at you!), I don’t know. I don’t even remember when Twitter started to feel like a place I looked forward to logging into, one of the first online forums where I felt like I could connect with like-minded people – some who slowly became closer than many people I know in real life.
Twitter was the place where I truly connected to my Gooner identity on a global scale, where my exploration of my own voice – as a fan, as a female, as a sports writer – began and still continues. Twitter was where I met the lovely Dave Seager and Paul (aka Bat) and eventually became a part of the Gunners Town crew (hello you awesome people!), getting a chance to share my story with others. It is where I have been able to interact with fans from the UK, Spain, America, South Africa, Australia, Africa, Croatia, Russia, Germany and so many more countries. Many of them are now my friends – whether online or offline – and not just because of our shared love of Arsenal. I’ve also had the pleasure of being able to personally meet some of them (Dave, Jane, Catherine, Kay, Amanda, Tim, Deborah, Peter, Bee, Sian, Billy among others *waves*).
Without Twitter, I would never have been in attendance as Dave released his book on Geordie Armstrong at the Tollington in October 2014. I would never have had the pleasure of meeting Arsenal greats like Frank McLintock, Eddie Kelly and John Radford or getting to know the delightful Jill Armstrong. As a Red member, I’ve had the chance to go for a few home and away matches since 2008. But it is in the last few years in particular when my fan experience has been enriched more than I could ever have hoped for. And these people are the reason for it.
I’ve already mentioned how many of my friendships while at University in the UK have begun because of football, started at sports bars and at games. This is just an extension of that, on a much larger scale because of the sheer size and reach of a platform like Twitter. This is just to remind us that there are genuinely good people out there, wherever you are, that we are right in being careful, but equally right to hope and believe in the basic beauty in life and in humanity.
I will continue to meet fans in my real life (most recently for the FA Cup final at Flaherty’s in Barcelona) and enjoy the visceral experiences brought on by sharing the highs and lows of our glorious club – but at the times that I cannot, I know that however messy it gets on Twitter, however much I need a break from people who are like banging my head against a wall, I can always rely on my Gooner family for support, for love and for laughter. What more can a girl ask for?
Gunners Fair will be back in the next week or two, bringing you the latest from our brilliant Ladies. Please do share your memories and thoughts – I look forward to reading them.
Keep sane and safe during this long interlull!
Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.