I came to England almost exclusively for
football Arsenal. There was no way I was going to stop at one game. I wanted as much as I could get. When I saw Arsenal were playing away to Everton I thought fuck yeah, boozy train trips, songs and banter with 3,000 other guys I’ve never met but love anyway.
Nope. Arsenal is the 10th biggest* sport team on the planet. It has more than 25 million fans. Everton’s stadium holds 40,000 and only 1800 of those are allocated to Arsenal fans. I got a ticket in the only place I could, behind a pole and surrounded by Everton fans.
What’s the protocol of sitting in the opposition section? Do I go the fuck you I’m proud option and wear my Arsenal jersey, scarf, beanie, undies and propeller hat and tell all the Everton fans that their team, although full of serial rapists, plays like a bunch of decrepit forest fairies? Or do I wear vaguely blue things, say nothing and clap politely whenever Everton wins corners?
I asked reddit.
“I was at an arsenal vs man utd game at Highbury back in the 90s. Myself and my father. I was young about 14 I reckon.
Obviously in with the arsenal fans. Two man utd supporters right in front of us in the arsenal section in their jerseys.
We lost 2-1 and the father and his son got some abuse, got spat on and it was disgusting behavior.
Was at Stamford bridge again in the 90s. Chelsea vs West Ham.
West ham one by a late goal if I recall, 2-1. Julian Dicks with the winner. 2 west ham fans hidden in with me and the Chelsea fans could not hold their celebration in when west ham scored. Chelsea fans stopped, looked and charged those two fans and kicked the living crap out of them.”
“When I was 10 or 11 years old my Dad took me to watch Charlton vs Arsenal at the Valley (he was a Charlton season ticket holder). I was already a huge Arsenal fan so he let me wear my Arsenal shirt in the home end. I guess most people didn’t care (I certainly wouldn’t have) but one idiot started giving my Dad abuse at the end of the game. That was the first and only time I ever saw my Dad threaten to knock someone out.”
The one guy who said something like ‘fuck em, wear it anyway’ was downvoted to oblivion and deleted.
Guess I’m going incognito then.
The game started brilliantly. Arsenal were whizzing it around like Brazilian street kids and Everton were clobbering about like hippos with anvils for ankles. Well maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but things were looking bright. Around five minutes into the game, I was greeted by a moustachioed Evertonian with a veiny scalp and a tattoo of the Everton crest. He sat next to me and immediately started screaming abuse at all the Arsenal players. After he’d turn to me, smile, slap my should and say something so heavily accented it just sounded like ‘ooh eehe yer get er yer de do’, then he’d go back to angrily reminding the arsenal players how shit they were. It seemed to work. By the end of the first half Arsenal were 2-0 down. Naismith had scored the second from an offside position just before half time. Vein head celebrated like a madman. I wanted to turn to him and yell “I love Arsenal and I think Naismith is a cunt.” I didn’t though. I was gutted. Any hope of winning had been extinguished and now I was worrying about how many goals we’d let in.
It felt like I was at home again. Watching my shitty stream at 3am. Arsenal have just conceded their fourth goal against Chelsea and I can’t even say fuck because I’ll wake everyone up so instead I just sit there. My head sinks into my hands and I look like an ad for depression awareness.
By the 80th minute it was still 2-0. The Everton fans were bellowing, Arsenal looked tired and vein head was in Disneyland. Fucking hopeless. That’s when Aaron Ramsey scored. Fucking Welsh Jesus cometh again. Purge my stress and provide me with hope. I believe. I believe! In the 90th minute we scored again. A Giroud header to the bottom corner. 2-2. The stadium went silent. Only a small pocket of speckled red roaring, jumping and feeling fucking great.
Me – I just stood there in silence like everyone else around me. Inside I was freaking out – whole rivers of amphetamined antelopes jumping and spasming, rushing through my body, setting off alarms and crashing things.
The game ended four minutes later. The Arsenal fans were waving their flags and singing of victory “2-0 and you fucked it up”. I wanted to run over to them and join in celebrating but I was forcibly washed away by the stream of disgruntled Everton fans.
When I got outside I could still hear the travelling fans. I sat outside on the pavement and listened. I got those shivers you get when someone scratches your head in the right way. When the singing died down I jogged 5km home.
*according to Forbes’ estimated value