The Definition of a Supporter.

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

​The Oxford English dictionary defines the word ‘supporter’ as; “a person who is actively interested in and wishes success for a particular sports team.”

That is one definition of a possible two, but the other surrounds politics and that is one subject that should never be mixed with football. 

So, to qualify as a supporter in every sense of the word, you must wish success for your chosen team, and show an active interest in said team.

In turn, that is why Arsenal has such a large volume of support. With every occurrance documented and beamed to all corners of the globe, interested parties can view as much Arsenal-related content as their hearts desire. 

And yet, the sniping and vehement arguments which attempt to pigeonhole people into handy categories goes on – regardless of how the team is performing.

The level of vitriol and general negativity that hangs menacingly in every nook and cranny of social media has not dissipated, despite the object of our affections performing well on the pitch. The fanbase is well and truly fractured, and this is symptomatic of the era we live in.

There is an entitlement, that we should be contending thanks to the bulging bank accounts of the club. The matchday revenue of the club is the largest in Europe, and this is seen as a ticket that automatically gives us a right to win the majority of games. 

Much like the excellent Arseblog article recently mentions, when did supporting the club become about victory at all costs? When did we lose sight of the journey?

We cannot simply enjoy Arsenal winning and keeping pace at the top of the league. Even though this is exactly what we had wished for at the beginning of the season. I’ve seen some truly preposterous tweets and entries that scrape the barrel of incredulity recently, as the sources for such idiocy try in vain to find a negative which they can pick at like an infected wound.

The supposed bad form of players. Arsene Wenger’s selections. The fact we didn’t go on to score more goals after hammering three past Chelsea in the first half – which apparently shows a lack of a killer instinct.

These people are the antithesis of a supporter. They antagonise with the hope of luring you into a futile war of words, but this is their raison d’etre. They don’t want to be shown the path of enlightenment. They just want to rile you and get a reaction.

They are not supporters, in any sense of the word. The word itself though, could do with another definition to add to the two existing variations.

Any fan who has had to alter their daily routine to catch a match. Anyone who has had their entire day ruined by a loss, or alternatively had a fantastic day thanks to a win. That qualifies as supporting the club.

Does a season ticket holder pull rank over any other fan? Does someone from Manilla miss out on being a Gooner because he has to stream a game? Does someone who pumps money into the club coffers quantify as a fan more than anyone else?

No, to put it plainly. Twitter may be a sharp double-edged sword, but it has also enabled me to peer into people’s lives and see how dedicated they are to the team. Some have to set their alarm at an ungodly hour just to view highlights of the game. They then go through their regular day-to-day routine with a couple of hours sleep. They have ruined their day just to watch The Arsenal. That is dedication. 

The ones who don’t have the luxury of visiting The Emirates and seeing a live game, they go to some extreme measures to keep up with events. We take for granted the proximity of the club, and the continuous flurry of news from all sources. Those who are less fortunate are hungrier for even the tiniest drop of Arsenal news, and more often than not, have tooled up on the history of Arsenal. Knowledge is power, and if you know your Sir Chips Keswick from your Sir Henry Norris then that is also proof that you carry the club with you, wherever you are.

There is no hierarchy, there are no levels of support. Of course, the away fans who travel to all points of the UK and Europe – and pay a princely sum to do so – have a deep affinity with the club. Don’t all of us though?

Ask yourself this: When Arsenal lose a game, how long does it take for your mood to lighten? How long do you wait before you brave social media again? Do you grasp for positives or flagellate yourself with negativity?

If you do any of the above, then you are a Gooner, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. We win together and lose together. In an ideal world, anyway.

Enjoy the ride. It could be worse, you could support a team which are never in contention for trophies. 

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4 thoughts on “The Definition of a Supporter.

  1. I comply with the Oxford Dictionary description of ‘a supporter’ along with the many categories of supporter that you subsequently identify.
    From the very beginning when, aged 10, I was fortunate enough to witness my first game involving the Gunners at Wembley Stadium in 1950 which transpired into very active support through my teenage years and through my early 20’s.
    Away games for me were, in many instances, more like home games as I hail from Manchester. A status that was considered very unusual in those days – not to support a team from your home town. But I suppose it was to be expected as my father was a Huddersfield Town supporter, he constantly reminded me of the source of Arsenal’s greatness.
    The 1950’s turned out to be a test of any Gunners loyalty, the loss to Newcastle Utd. in the ’52 Cup Final when we played with 10 men and lost t a goal scored by a Chilean – now we laud one of his kind. Through to the mid and latter half of the decade when performances were mediocre to be kind – Tommy Docherty once stated something to the effect that Arsenal were the worst team in the Fist Division not to be relegated, a feeling that we on the terraces would concur with.
    During that period there was a hardcore of support that travelled with the team, a group of around 20 of us on most occasions, although that did expand the nearer we got to London.
    I developed some lasting friendships, particular mention should go to the late David Stacey who had appointed himself as the unofficial mascot for the Gunners when they were on the road. Quite a character Dave, he seemed to revel in the abuse that was aimed at him as he paraded around the edge of the pitch prior to the kick off. Abuse in those days was largely humorous banter. Dave dressed in a topper and tails in red and white and he carried a large sign which promoted support for Arsenal but also expressed the sentiment – ‘May the best team win’ – on many occasions that was our opponents.
    The 50’s and 60’s saw Arsenal of the managerial merry go round however the team seemed to show promise with the acquisition of Frank McClintock. Around about this time I became an inactive supporter as the breadwinner for my new family, but interest never waned and scores and other Arsenal info was avidly sought on Grandstand, in the newspapers and through the pages of ‘Gunflash’ (yes I’d become a member of the Arsenal Supporters Club in 1951).
    In 1971 I had the ultimate pleasure of watching the Gunners, via Charlie George, win the double on TV accompanied by 6 month old son – the wheel had turned full circle as he now carries the tradition forward.
    It gave me ultimate pleasure to take him to Highbury to watch ‘our’ team. Today he is a fully indentured Gunner.
    We left England for New Zealand in 1982 but the ‘supporting’ never diminished although in the early days catching a glimpse of ‘soccer’ on NZ TV was a rarity. All the ex-pats used to gather around their radio on Sunday morning to catch the football scores – only one result really mattered!
    Having moved to Australia in 2008 I now watch every Arsenal game live, be it Premiership or domestic cup competitions, or UCL they are all broadcast live with the dubious bonus of the pundits pre, during and after each game.
    But it won’t matter where I am on this planet I’ll always be an Arsenal supporter.

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  2. The one consolation I had in the dreary late 50’s and early 60’s was going to watch Real Madrid on an annual basis as they played M/cr. Utd. in a series of ‘friendlies’, also known as thrashings. I was fortunate enough to go to Glasgow and watch them beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 along with the aforementioned Dave Stacey. Still regarded by many experts as the greatest game of football ever played. I relive the splendour of that game occasionally as I have it on DVD.
    What a brilliant team they were, probably the finest club side ever – but they weren’t Arsenal – COYG

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