Hello there, what a week it has been so far. India outlawed higher denomination notes in a bid to end black money on 8th November and America elected Donald Trump as leader of the free world on 9th, in a bid to end the world as we know it. All week we’ve been hearing about damning news.
Alexis on his super human mission to lift Chile to a World Cup qualifying spot all by himself and his torn muscle.
Hector Bellerin is back on his way to the club after suffering an injury on international duty with Spain that makes sure he is missing against the shitbag Mourinho’s Manchester United.
It really has been a bad week for most of us upstanding, world loving and peaceful Arsenal fans. As always, in tough times I reached for the Bible. No, not that bible you knobs! The Arsenal bible, Nick Hornby’s transcendental tale of support, Fever Pitch. For the first time in a long while I found myself trying to find a thread in the book that made me feel better about the world. Now Fever Pitch essentially is an honest book trying to make sense of the author’s lifelong connection of support with Arsenal Football Club. It did not make me feel immediately happy , and so I turned to the Invincibles, the tale of Arsenal’s Invincible season from the inside as narrated by Amy Lawrence with inputs from the squad and manager.
It made me feel better. Not because of the fact that the Invincibles were the best squad in England and one of the best if not the best in Europe at the time. No, far from that. I was too young to be cognizant of the Invincibles when they were active thousands of miles away from my life in India, so I have no recollection of watching them play. All that I know, is through video clips and interviews and this book.
So why would it make me feel better you ask?
Because the conversations and the insight into daily life at London Colney during the Invincibles season makes me proud of the club. The players have constantly mentioned mutual respect and admiration as one of the most potent powers of the squad as a whole.
The human side of football is so far hidden from us as fans that one starts to think of those at the top of the game as inhuman or less human at the least. This thought is thrashed to the ground in the passage where Freddie Ljungberg recounts the tale of how Pat Rice educated him about Arsenal culture and tradition.
Ljungberg had been there only a week when Pat Rice pulled him aside for a pep talk. ’He said, “You know Freddie, at Arsenal we have certain principles of the respect you’re supposed to show everyone else around the club. Everyone is equal, we show everyone respect, and that’s special and that’s, that Arsenal spirit.” It was very inspiring. I was proud to be a part of a club that had those standards. I felt proud to have the badge every time because of what it stood for. To me that’s what Arsenal still stands for, why I still support it. It may sound silly but when I changed clubs, I would still go and shake hands with the cleaners every morning or the receptionist or whoever. A lot of players don’t do that at other clubs. That was something I was taught at Arsenal: you show respect to everybody, everybody has the same value and brings something so this club can move forward.’’
I think this side of Arsenal has spoken to me more than the trophies themselves. A set of values and a tradition to live life by, a goal to make the game more than just about the players on the pitch and the men with the money. An idea that sport is bigger than simply those who are part of it at the higher levels. That sport must transcend barriers and enable people to move ahead as one and forget that they are different. The principle that all beings are deserving of respect no matter where they stand on the societal ladder decided by money and luck.
In a lot of bad times, Arsene Wenger’s words in particular and Arsenal as a whole have helped me over my depressing circumstances. They have made me smile and forget about the pains of everyday life that are inflicted so rigorously upon us in our passage through this life.
Funnily enough, the idea that football is just a game has never occurred to me. Being an Arsenal fan I have always understood that football is a school of life that is meant to educate us about ourselves and others, about hardships and togetherness and the importance of never giving up.
At a time when our yearly bad luck seems to be coming back along with an alarming bit of doom and gloom, it is important to keep in mind what it all is. I for one, am waiting for the United game with bated breath because I don’t give a damn about Neymar’s 50 goals and Chile’s World Cup qualification battle. I think there are a lot of people doing the same around the world, a multitude waiting for Arsenal to put a smile on their faces by just playing.
Wherever you are reading this, I would like to repeat these eternal words to you:
Always remember who you are, what you are and who you represent.
Come On You Gunners!