WTTGT Writer: David McManus
Football supporters across the world generally support the team that is on their doorstep – so what makes some fans choose to follow a team that is more than 5,000 miles away from theirs?
In this edition of Meet the Global Gooners, we get the answers from the San Francisco Branch of Arsenal America – the official United States Supporters Club of Arsenal FC.
Mark, who is a native of San Francisco, currently serves as Bay Area Gooners branch manager and secretary for Arsenal America.
He said: “Originally, I was simply looking to watch the matches with more Gooners.
“I happened upon an advertisement for a new pub opening not far from my home, indicating they’d be opening early to show matches.
“The first day I showed up there was at least 10 other Gooners – and that was the beginning of the Bay Area Gooners.”
The next step was to build up more interest, and with the help of social networking sites, the branch now has almost 400 members on their mailing list.
“My road to becoming an Arsenal supporter was a convergence of events,” said Mark. “I became friends with an obsessed Arsenal supporter whose dedication wore off on me a bit – then not long after, my sister-in-law moved to north London.
“On one of her final visits home she brought me an Arsenal kit, but what really pushed me into full-blown fanaticism was my one and only visit to Highbury,” he added.
“The atmosphere, the closeness to the pitch, and seeing Thierry Henry and Robert Pires was like nothing I’d experienced before – something in me changed and I’ve never been the same since,” said Mark.
The downside of supporting a team so far away is of course the distance, although Arsenal America organise approximately two trips a year, which Mark says have been successful.
The branch gather at Maggie McGarry’s Irish Pub for matches, and despite the early kick off times due to time differences, the atmosphere is often lively.
Mark said: “We average between 30 to 50 Gooners a match, while bigger matches mean the pub is packed with 150 to 200 Gooners.
“Maggie’s gets supporters of all clubs – United, Chelsea, West Ham – though we always outnumber them.
“But the banter is always friendly between rival fans and we don’t see any ugliness or genuine aggression.”
All photos attributed to Martin Lacey – www.martinlaceyphoto.com
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