What does football mean? What does it mean when you say you support a team till the end? What does one want to get out of the exercise of supporting a football team? What do we expect in return from the club, now that the days of local fans running into their football heroes at the local watering hole have gone down to approximately minus 100%?
These are questions I have been trying to wrap my head around for a while now. They have different answers for everybody and I respect that fact from the core of my heart. I am one of the people who truly believe that everyone has a right to their opinion, I may not like yours but I will defend to my death your right to present it.
In light of those views I would humbly like to present my thoughts on the protests at the game last time around and the subsequently apparent disdain of some supporters to the ruthless or perhaps, ignominious nature of the protests. I realise I am a few days late but it required a level head and time to think this out in a way that would offend the least number of people.
Let me say at the start that although I am not a supporter lucky enough to be living close enough to attend games and I am by no means a fan who spends any money on the club, I am still heavily invested in it. Heavily invested because of the emotions involved in a team I have supported since I was 10 years old. I don’t even buy merchandise particularly, maybe only once in a while and usually something really minor. However I do devote my time to the team. Following it, reading up on it, immersing myself in Arsenal related news and media to feel a part of the carnival that is Arsenal Football Club. I also stay up till 3:30 am for the late night games so if you question my devotion I really have nothing to say. I wish you well either way.
The protests showed that a particular set of people have a grand view of their own opinions and self -importance. These people include the members of the supporter clubs like the Black Scarf, the AST and REDAction. There is an excellent article from Tim Stillman on this, I suggest you take a look because he says a lot of what I feel. It’s right here.
REDAction is the only supporter group who I have seen have had a positive impact on atmosphere or game proceedings prior to this because I remember they had organized a very well planned show on one of the CL nights.
The AST I have heard of also but from different sources which show them in a very different light, namely this article from @Poznaninmypants – WHAT HAS WENGER EVER DONE FOR US? (THE AST SURVEY). It is a rather brilliant piece and I suggest you read it before proceeding if you are unaware of who the AST are. The BSM I do not have much knowledge of so we will not be looking at what they did earlier.
A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Mangan (@arseblog himself) was talking to someone named Ben from REDAction on the Arsecast. To be accurate I went back and checked the exact one and it’s the Arsecast 383 if people want to take a quick whirl listening to it. In the podcast Andrew tries to skilfully manoeuvre Ben into saying that the message they were spreading on twitter about opting out of the game against Watford was damaging to the team. At least from my viewpoint it would seem that Andrew was trying to impress upon his guest, politely, that what he was doing was an incredibly divisive tactic and should not be undertaken lightly. He was also trying to say that it would have a significant negative impact on the game, but the gentleman named Ben kept saying that it was not everybody and they were not forcing people to do anything. He said it was just him and some of his mates that would not be at the game and that a lot of other people would be too. Just that it would not be them at the game. I question this kind of mentality and the thought processes going on behind it. This person obviously knew he had an influence over a lot more people than most others would, because he is an important member of one of the few supporter’s institutions that have been visible at Arsenal. He knew that asking people to not go would have an effect. He knew it was a quarter final of the FA Cup. They all knew what they were doing and they still went ahead and engineered a kind of disruption on online media, and less so at the game but still I am sure people in the ground knew who was responsible for the empty seats.
Fast forward a few weeks, and the same people along with some others have taken it upon themselves to insult in a very public manner the greatest manager Arsenal Football Club has ever had. What does that tell you? To me it says that some people take it too personally that Arsene Wenger gets a free reign in his job and can speak his mind no matter what his situation is. However that is not true, I keep saying this again and again- he is most probably on board because he loves the club and Kroenke keeps him because Arsene can keep the club in the money while not falling out of the top 4. These people are most likely affronted by this freedom that is afforded to Wenger and want to have the classic, “I’ll show you, you brat” confrontation with him.
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When they cannot do it in person they try and do stuff like engineering a protest that stinks of ego and makes a greater mess than it would have cleared had it been successful. Arsene himself has not helped matters and although his post-match reaction to the protests was super classy as always, he has been saying worrying things these past few weeks. He also has delusions of grandeur I imagine but then he can have them I suppose because he is insulated from everything normal people talk about. The ‘One Arsene Wenger’ chants must have hurt these people even more and I wonder what they would be thinking of doing now. They seem a bit like terrorist organizations that plan a bigger and bigger hit when they are ignored till they are taken note of. Short sighted and selfish people who want the club to do what they think are many but I wonder how many of them can truly get behind the club like a child can.
I see children from every club at the games, when they win they smile and when they lose they cry but they never start taking up pitchforks because the manager finishes fourth and the transfer market strategy is not what they would like (or in our case, transfer market strategy is absent). A child has hope, infinite hope that it can share to all who will take it. As I have grown up myself I have felt the hope waning and washing away slowly with each passing week and each underwhelming performance but thankfully I still see beyond it all.
Football for me is happiness. It has always been so and Arsenal has been the creator of it all. Arsenal has done it because I have supported them like a child for most of my time. I hope and I pray but I do not lose sight of the fact that I have other things in my life and that Arsenal is not responsible for everything. Wenger won’t help me do my college assignments and Giroud isn’t going to sit my exams. I have to do all that myself and if in the middle of that the team manages to give me a smile for a while then I thank them for it and each year when they collapse inevitably I turn the page and look at what can happen at the next season.
I know this would seem like an exercise in futility to many of you, but I suggest when you next feel saddened about the Arsenal and its performances, ask a kid what he wants. He will just say he wants the team to win. To win we need the club as one, not divided. Whatever you think of Wenger, he will not go till he is ready to, this much is clear to everybody. While he is here do not let your hatred for him get to your support for the team. I will always support the Arsenal. Hope you do too.