Passionate Kenyan Gooners Part 3 – ‘Being an Arsenal Fan – A Kenyan Gooner’s Perspective by Kavit Patel’

By now I am fairly certain that all my readers are blown away by the commitment and pure passion shown by our fellow Gooners in Kenyan. In the 3rd and final piece of Kenyan week on ‘1nildown2oneup’ I am delighted to welcome my 6th Kenyan contributor and second guest blogger Kavit Patel (@kavit_patel) another who has followed my blog since launch and was very keen to be involved. So over to Kavit for a personal journey to shrine AFC….

You may ask “Why would Arsenal have so many fans in Kenya”?

Kenyans, despite being the leaders in long-distance running, are most passionate about football over any other sport. We have a strong passion for the Premiership, more than that shown towards our local Kenyan Premier League. Since the mid 90’s we have had a constantly-increasing access to live matches and can now watch 90% of the matches on TV (including the 3pm kickoffs!), more than what’s available in England! (Okay don’t rub it in Kavit.) 

My mid-90’s Arsene/Arsenal introduction:

As I mentioned above, being able to watch the matches here in Kenya became more possible during the mid 90s, which coincided with the beginning of the Arsene era. Before this period the only known names in English football were Manchester United and Liverpool.

In 1997, at the tender age of 12, I started watching the games on TV and was drawn towards this team in red and white who were playing in a charming little stadium. They had the magnificent Dutch duo Bergkamp & Overmars, the suave beauty and beast French midfield combo of Vieira & Petit, supported by the English core of Seaman, Dixon, Bould, Adams, Keown, Winterburn, Parlour, Platt and Ian “179 Just did it!” Wright, and they marched on majestically to a league and cup double.

I was introduced to Arsenal in that season, and I knew instantly that there was just something special about this club. I bought these two books (we didn’t have access to Google/Wikipedia/Facebook/Twitter in those days so I had to do it the old fashion way) to learn more about the history of Arsenal. I learnt about the Chapman era, heroes like Charlie George, Liam Brady, Smudgers, Rocky (RIP), George Graham’s “1-0 to the Arsenal” era, Anfield 1989 to name a few.

I was right; Arsenal was a very SPECIAL club!

PS: To me, the only 3 letters that belong on the front of an Arsenal shirt will always be JVC (Editors note – Early JVC nit so mini-Camcorder on back of matchday programme sat on Pat Jenning’s enormous gloved hand!)

98-99 to 00-01

During this period, an important (probably the most) factor in attracting the vast majority of Arsenal fans in Kenya took place, the signing of Nwankwo Kanu from Inter Milan in 1999!

 Compulsory yet different picture of African Idol.

Kenyan fans, like many others in African countries, totally IDOLISE African heroes whether it was George Weah, Abedi Pele, Amokachi, Uncle Rigobert, or Roger Milla. In 1999 Kanu, the golden boy who made his name in the 1996 Olympics was a fans’ favourite all over the continent. The fact that Arsenal owned this valuable asset helped attract an enormous amount of the fan base in Africa! Ironically Kenya’s ruling political party at the time was also named Kanu (but Kenyans had more love for Arsenal’s Kanu than our own). Since then Arsenal have had many African players who Kenyans have admired like Lauren, Kolo, Eboue, Adebayor, Song, but Kanu was the one who started it all off!

Watching Manchester United dominate the league for three seasons after our double of 98, losing the FA cup to them in 1999, being knocked out by Leicester the following season, and that Michael Owen final in Cardiff, not to mention constant Champions League heartbreaks. It was a painful period for gooners worldwide.

  Yep painful is the word!!

Still during this period Arsene was able to introduce the likes of Lauren, Campbell, Ashley Cole, Freddy, Pires, Kanu, Henry and Wiltord to learn The Arsenal Way under the guidance of the legends Dixon, Adams, Keown, Winterburn, Parlour and Bergkamp. Arsene was slowly building a unit that would definitely challenge for honours. The beginning of the “Wengerball” era!

01-02 to 04-05

And so they did challenge for honours, winning 2 league titles (one invincible season!) and 3 FA Cups. Kenyan fans are as guilty as any of being “glory-hunters”, but how anyone can not fall in love with the greatest team the premiership has ever seen (fact!). It was the proudest period to be an Arsenal fan; words can’t describe the feelings felt towards that legendary ‘Invincibles’ team. Winning the league at Old Trafford in 2002 and at White Hart Lane in 2004, surely it could not get any better than this!

  No it could not get any better than this!

05-12

Unfortunately no it did not. I won’t go into details as we all know why and how painful the past 8 seasons have been for Arsenal fans globally, and it has been no different here in Kenya. Sure we may have lost a few fickle fans to the likes of Chelsea and United (and now City) but who needs them? We still have a loyal fan base that are proud to wear the shirt and have not lost hope that we will be able to compete with the best again.

What is worrying is the effect of a long trophy-less period, not being able to attract kids. Children want to be fans of a team that’s winning things. My 10 year old nephews ask me “Why do you support Arsenal? They will never win anything”. They don’t understand, and I don’t expect them to at that age but worldwide we are losing out on a generation of potential fans in today’s youth.

Is Arsene still the right man for Arsenal? For now yes, but I think we would all like to see more of the old Arsene desire. Less of this “4th is a trophy” nonsense Arsene, we know you don’t believe that. He wont stay forever though, but he has laid a very strong foundation for whoever carries on after he decides his time is up which is truly a great achievement.

Rivalries:

 Back in 1998-2003 we, in Kenya, had heard about the hatred with Spurs, which we didn’t understand at the time as they were total shite (yes they still are) and were considered as insignificant and irrelevant to us. We only had one enemy in this period, Manchester United! I can’t begin to describe how satisfying it was watching us win the league at Old Trafford in a Nairobi Sports Bar full of Manc supporters, yes on a school night!

Nowadays we share the same hatred for Chelsea, Tottenham, Mourinho, Barcelona, Laporta, Manchester City, Ca$hley, Adebayor and Na$ri!

The only regret many Arsenal fans in Kenya have:

Not being able to attend live matches. I consider myself very lucky to have watched my one and only league game at the Emirates vs Liverpool in 2010-11 season. I went for a few away games while I was at University in Nottingham (2003-07) but never had the chance to visit Highbury as tickets were impossible to get in our last few seasons there and this is my biggest regret in my Arsenal-supporting time.

Social Media:

The reason why you are able to read this article written by me!  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc have made it possible for us Kenyan fans to interact with Arsenal fans worldwide. I read many blogs and am a frequent commenter on Le-Grove. I have made many new friends who I have never met before, but hope to share a pre-match beer with during a visit to Ashburton Grove one day. Top on that list is Dave, who I am very grateful to for giving me the opportunity to do this guest post on his blog.

Some UK-based Arsenal fans on various blogs may say to us you don’t go to the games, you don’t sing the songs, you don’t know Arsenal pre-Wenger, how can you call yourself true Arsenal fans? to which I can only respond by saying IF I could go to all the live games I would, just because we don’t doesn’t make us any less of a supporter than those who fill the stadium. We watch EVERY Arsenal match religiously on TV, even those who cant afford a TV and the $80/month satellite subscription find a way to watch the game.

We feel the same pain as those inside the ground do when we taste defeat, and we share the same euphoric feeling with every goal scored, every victory won. There is no doubt we are separated by geographical locations, cultures, personal opinions, but one thing that unites you, me and millions of gooners around the world – our love for THE ARSENAL!

There’s no Arsenal fan who’s more of a supporter than the other. We all bleed the same red and white.

“Remember who you are, what you are, and who you represent”

Thanks again Kavit and ensure you follow him at @kavit_patel.  Brilliantly written and a perfect end to ‘Passionate Kenyan Gooner’ week on this site. I will now be sending all 3 links with all the amazing comments to Jill Smith and Arsenal to see if we can apply some pressure for the recognition of the Arsenal Kenyan Supporters Club, and all its fine work in the inner cities with Kenyan youth.

Until next time thanks for reading and keep supporting the  ‘timu ya baba’

Like what you read? Then follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

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54 comments

  1. @Kavit,
    A great article. Very lucky to be able to watch some 3pm games.

    PS I love your green beans! 😆

  2. “Timu ya baba aka wazito”i agree wit u Am A DIE HARD arsenal fan in NAIROBI..and we wil alwys bleed red n white…hpng wenger can sign giroud,mvila and rvp re-signs we wil win ourselvs atrophy come nxt seasn..come on gunners.. walter(kenya)

    1. If he keeps RVP signs Giroud + M’vila + a new CB + backup RB/LB in addition to Podolski we will be a force to reckon with!

  3. Spot on Kavit. This is an article written perfectly, kudos bro.
    Thank you Dave for giving him this chance to share more on a Kenyan Gunner perspective.

    1. Thanks Alex!

      It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time and am really grateful to Dave for giving me the opportunity.

  4. Arsenal(timu ya baba) is more of a religion in Kenya but there’s a danger of nt attracting young gooners as evry kid wants to be associated wit success..it’s tym we startd winning trophies again.

    1. It’s a problem I see in the youth of today, we have a large fan base aged 20+, but kids/teens are not as interested in AFC as the teens of 10 years ago, and this is worrying

  5. Thanks again for bringing this to us. I see it as a uniting force for the gunners family. Sometimes u don’t know what it means to be a fan until u see it been demostrated enthusiastically. Here in Nigeria, we have more Arsenal logo glued to carsthan u see of any other club, yet we’ve not won a trophy for some years. Sure the trophy cabinet will begin to increase from next season. Thank u guys and keep the spirit flowing as u guys in Kenya deserve to be celebrated

    1. We have the same here…stickers/paintings on cars/buses/matatus!

      Enjoy the visit of our boys to Naija in the summer!

  6. what a delight to read of an all conquering ARSENAL of yester-year! what a shame though that things have been let go the way they have over the past few years-thank God someone has seen the need to completely overhaul the team and get rid overpaid useless players like Djourou,Sharmack&co.Good riddance-onward The Gunners to a glorious 2012/2013 season!!!

    1. Yes Allan, it felt great to talk about the Arsenal of yester-year, which also makes it more painful to think of the way we’ve fallen in the past 7 years.

      Anyway, it doesn’t matter how cloudy the past has been, the future is still clear.

  7. Thank you Dave, Patel and my friends at KAFC (kenya arsenal fanclub) for this great piece of work. Proudly Kenyan Gooner.

  8. Kavit your article is spot on. You’ve really spoken what many of us Kenyan gooners have always wanted to share. Thanks Dave for giving us(thro’ this Kavit) the opportunity to let the Gooner family know our feelings. I’m in Kitale, Kenya

    1. Asante George!

      It’s not just this article, Dave has released a collection of 3 posts, make sure you read the other 2.

  9. Great post man.makes me feel proud to be a member of this great kenyan gooner family.keep up the great work….you are very lucky to have attended an arsenal live game.it’s been my life long dream!

    1. Thank you Isiaiah!

      I sincerely hope you get the chance to achieve that dream bro 🙂

      The feeling inside the stadium is just unreal

  10. Actually I’m more impressed with fans from less developed nations that still hold the passion and find something they like and believe in. In this case, Football and Arsenal.

    1. There are fans all around the world who, no matter what their situation in life is, no matter what hardships they face, have this phenomenon that just puts everything else aside and makes their life feel better.

      This phenomenon is Arsenal Football Club. It makes all our lives a better place

  11. Kenyan gooner here! I think rvp is off and to be honest i’m not to dissapointed. I dont think he can replicate last season,not scoring wise but physically it would be a tall order considering his fitness history.Giroud and podolski are brilliant purchases not squad filler like chamakh and park,we have a great chance next season but we really need to learn how to defend defend defend!! We need to be organised and in my opinion,turning arsenal into an organised and efficient team would be wengers greatest achievment! If we can halve the number of goals we conceded last season we can win the title, trust me. Mvila wont change our defensive problems,a unified team that works for each other will. I hope bould brings in some influence,if he does….high hopes for next season! As for fickle fans,arsenal is like family. Would you abandon your family? Blood is thicker than water and i bleed arsenal!

    1. Hi Steve!

      I think RVP will stay as the main man, with Podolski and Giroud as his supporting act.

      Turning Arsenal into a more organised and efficient unit? That’s exactly why Steve Bould has been hired as assistant manager!

  12. Brilliantly written and full of passion. One thing I notice and really like is that players from Africa seem to receive the support of the whole continent. I love that kind of unity. Well done to you and Dave for this great article.

  13. @Kavit umetuwakilisha mbaya gooner fan mombasa kenya…time 2 go bak 2 the gud old days of winning trophies…as the legend Henry always says once a gooner always a gooner…thanks a lot @Kavit for putting kenyan gooners on the map

    1. Thanks Jimmy, but it is Dave who has put kenyan gooners on the map with this brilliant idea he suggested to us 2 weeks ago!

  14. Great listening to people who are real fans even thought they can’t get to the matches. Having supported Arsenal for many many years there have been times that I couldn’t get to matches because of my location, (Royal Air Force and awkward postings)but would never consider myself less of a Gooner because I ‘wasn’t there’, because in spirit I have been.

    Would be good to hear from those in other parts of the world as well

    Good article, cheers

    1. Thanks Pat!

      Serving your country in the RAF is not a bad reason to have missed out on the games 🙂

      Gooners from other parts of the world? I’m sure Dave will have something up his sleeve waiting to be released in the near future

  15. @Kavit,
    The Mother Country is fortunate to import large quantities of green beans from your lovely land. I love them and, I’m sure, so do the boys at the Emirates. That’s why they play so well!!!

    1. hehe yeah I figured out after I replied that that was what you were talking about.

      Yes you can get our green beans at your local Tesco/Asda/Sainsburys/Waitrose , as well as other delicious naturally grown fruits and veggies.

      I think you should make a trip to this side of the world to enjoy food made wiht these fresh ingredients. I’ve lived in Kenya and in England, and I can confirm everything tastes better here 😉

  16. great read kevit,i share the same sentiments. av been an avid arsenal fan since the double in the 1998 and i only knew our rivals as man utd.
    my fav player of all time is pires

    1. Thanks Kirpotich!

      I think majority of us were attracted in 98, that team was truly special.

      Pires, one of my all time favourites too

  17. Kavit, for a while there you got me thinking I was going to read only your personal history about Arsenal untill the latter part of the write-up. Unlike Fabiań, the last Kenya guest writer here, who hit the ground running and got me enthralled from the word go. But NO, your approach was different, like a hunter aiming for an illusive game, you took the path of patience and the Know-how of an experienced sage. Well done mate. The most insightful part for me, is the stark reality you brought to the fore that we run the risk of loosing a generation of young believers (not beliebers – which I don’t fancy. lol ) if our trophy drought continues. I do hope we win soothing next season and every other season, but if we don’t and continue to loose our supporters, I know someday they will come back to us coz, like husband and wife, we quarrelled and not divorced – the relationship is always still fixable. Untill our pretty boys visit Nigeria by extension Africa some weeks from today, I say I big Thank You to Dave who works 9 to 5 to make this blog and everything within and without possible. Thank you mate. And to u Kavit, nice one and thank you.

    1. Haha Thanks, that is some brilliant analysis you’ve made!

      For me it’s the first time I’ve written a post like this so wanted to cover all areas

      1. You did well mate. It’s a niuce one. Well thought out. Kudos! You guys made me know that there are more gunners in Kenya than in England – Astonishing!

  18. I’ve always believed Arsenal represent Justice not only in football but in other aspects of life. A representation of an individual who works so hard to get what is rightful his. You don’t have to buy that right/success but rather earn it. Those who buys it only succeeds in short term. To me AFC is morally upright. We’ll always Keep The Faith

  19. They actualy call me m’arsenali.. At a point I wish I cold add some white in my blood just to have the colours of my favourite team since I started watching futbol way back in 1995.. All wot we nid ryt now is a gud CB and a creative midfielder.. No doubt that podolski,M’villa n Giroud are in the squad already n I must say those are gud signing bt am kinda skeptical abt Giround.
    I invite u all at my club on the 18th August,match day one at Pints Makuti,kahawa sukari along the super highway n lets have a skeleton of how we gonna win the double 2012/13 season..
    Very nice blog I must say.

  20. it took man c over 40yrs and chealse over 50yrs to win a cup, what is 7yrs? Have faith gooners we will also fly top. The article is smart and gives alot of hope for weak fun to support arsenal fully, thanx pal am a gooner 4 life.

  21. Great Piece Kavin Patel.I like the way u narrating Your Arsenal Experience Step by Step.I started Supporting Arsenal also in 1997.and at one stage,i Felt like its me narrating this Story.i dont know how to thanks Dave for the good Job You have done to put Kenyan Gooners in the Limelight.all i can say is that may God Bless the Work of Your Hands,May this Blog and Other that You run Grow and Become a big Hit World Wide.I will also get in Touch with Jill Smith.and request all the Gooners who ant my Friend on Facebook to add me:Deno Alves DeGooner,so that i can add You in Kenya Arsenal Fanclub.Our Supporters Club.Thank You Again.and God Bless Arsenal

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