Arsenal – A New Religion?

A religion is defined as ‘ a particular system of faith or worship ‘ and ‘ a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion ‘.

After missing yet another game due to work commitments, I decided to ask if I could finish a little earlier. When asked the reason why I should be allowed to scrimp on the amount of life I give to the company who pays my mortgage, apparently ” so I can catch the second half of the Arsenal game ” does not amount to a sufficient excuse. I was scoffed at and I fulfilled my responsibility with a scowl on my face.

At every viable opportunity, I took my phone and followed our beloved team the best way I knew how – through Twitter. Whilst there are better filtered avenues through which I could funnel my adoration, Twitter is by far the most prompt. I can only imagine how many of us – via social engagements or work – have been glued to the screen of your fruit-based smartphone ( others are available ) as your thumb performs actions which make it resemble a skin-toned blur – all to refresh a page in which text is the sole proprietor of your respective joy or pain.

It’s a painful existence. We may moan about the exorbitant fees Sky and BT Sport charge for their wares, but compare it to the vicarious fandom we have through a phone screen and suddenly it seems a match on your TV at home is comparable to a seat in La Bombonera.  To summarise – missing the game sucks.

As my stomach twisted with every minute that passed, I saw a few of my colleagues leave the work depot. They are devout religious types and frown upon my choice of language at times ( quite often to be fair ), but we get on rather well and conversation is never a struggle. These fellows though, always had special shifts on Sundays.

It seems that if you answer to a higher power, then special dispensation can be given so you can devote your time to your beliefs. Of course, these people have lived a dedicated life and have an unswerving belief in a higher power. They live for their religion and their faith is a blessing upon them.

Well, in regards to the definition of a religion at the start of this article – doesn’t supporting your team count as a religion?

Can there be a person more devoted, more staunch in their opinions, than a football fan? Speaking strictly from my own perspective,  much like a person visiting a Church, a Synagogue or a Mosque, I gear my whole week around events at Arsenal Football Club.

If it is a game at The Emirates, hopefully I have a ticket, if I don’t then the consolation prize is a day off so I can at least watch the events unfold. I write about the game, the injuries, the press conferences. Every morsel of information – in my own world and that of every other fan – is devoured and then disseminated.

Is going to the stadium not unlike a pilgrimage to a place of worship? Do you not experience the highest of highs when your team scores a winner? Does the team you love so much have the power to change your whole outlook, at least temporarily? Your chosen faith gives you belief, it brings with it optimism. Well, again speaking from my viewpoint, when Arsenal win, I have a spring in my step, even when at work.

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A religion has rules and mantras – teachings that are meant to improve your life and those around you. Arsenal as well, have something similar. Used originally to make sure the youth team were kept on the straight and narrow, ‘ The Arsenal Way’ is now a set of guidelines on how to represent yourself and the club you play for. It could quite easily be adopted for everyday life, such is the honourable stance it takes.

All religions and faiths have Patrons, Saints and Disciples of different walks. From Vishnu to Luke, these icons carried or even were the subject of, the holy word of that respective faith. Does Arsenal not have people of significance who embody what it is to be affiliated with the Cannon? Gentleman Bob Wilson, Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams and so many others, that are synonymous with our club and envoke only positive thoughts within the person thinking of them.

The stories that are included in the holy tomes of religion, such as the Bible, the Torah, the Qur’an – they exhibit everything that the religion encapsulates and the tales themselves are pamphlets of sorts designed with some sort of moral to take from each yarn. These stories stay with the reader and make up the moral fibre of each devotee. Think of Dennis Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle. Remember Tony Adams scoring the fourth goal versus Everton in 1998. What of Charlie George in 1971? All of these stories can be passed down from generation to generation and represent everything that is good about our club. We use them as reasons as to why our club is so great. They are parables, chapters of a book that is being constantly written.

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We spend so much of our earnings on our team. Some of us fill our homes, but all of us have a moderate collection of Gunner-related items in our homes. We all have an object – something we assume to carry a higher power of sorts – that we kiss or carry with us so that the force can affect proceedings in its ethereal manner. We liken some of our more blessed players with god-like stature. We revere them. Even when the time has long passed that they have graced us with their presence on the field, we still hark back with alarming regularity to the times when they changed fate with a seraphic twirl of a boot.

There is legal precedence regarding setting up a new religion. In the 2001 Australian census, over 70000 thousand citizens declared themselves as ‘Jedi’. This number is far less than the amount who diligently follow The Gunners through thick and thin – and yet ‘Jediism’ is officially recognised by government rules and regulations. So, when the next census pops through your letterbox, is there anything to say we cannot declare Arsenal as our religion?

I can say without hesitation that I have given more of my time to Arsenal than if I was religious. So why can’t I go to my management team at work and ask for dispensation to work special hours on matchdays?  It ticks all the boxes and to question my devotion would offer up a response filled with umbrage, much like if any supporter of a team was to be questioned about how much they adored their club.

I do hope this is taken with the good humour and open mind in which it was written. It is in no way meant to cause offence and the utmost respect is intended.

I merely inferred that the next time the census comes around, I intend to declare my religion as ‘Arsenal’. I will then move to start my own faith system and become one of those crazed evangelists you may see on cable TV in America. Living the dream……..

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