The curious case of Martin Keown, Van Nistelrooy and the Cannon on the chest!

       Indian Gooner Passion Part 3

Amazing feedback on the first 2 features in the ‘1nildown2oneup’ Global Gooner Passion series in India but of course today is the 15th August a hugely significant day in Indian history as it marks their independence day from Great Britain in 1947. So Happy Independence day to all Indian Gooners from me:

 So on this special day I am delighted to welcome Pranoy Thipaiah as my third collaborator of the week. Pranoy will be known to many as @GodisDutch10 on twitter and like Adi and Akhlilesh he will also be sharing with us the growth of football, and of course Arsenal in partcular and his own journey into Goonerdom. Over to Pranoy….

               

                           Tendulker – OUT                                                            Keown – IN

I am sure that when people think of India, their thoughts will often jump to cricket, and with good reason. For years, cricket here has been almost a religion and its players, the equivalent of gods. People clung to the cricket as if it were a sacred thing of great worth, and it brought communities together, as they ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed their way through a game.

But since the early 2000’s, the Gavaskars and Tendulkars have been replaced by the Messis and the Beckhams in our homes and on our streets. The grip that cricket once held on the country is loosening as football is making a niche for itself. As this new sport continues to develop itself into a major ‘brand’ in India, I see a larger number of kids playing football in alleys, in parks and in schools all over the country. It’s a phenomenon taking place across our cities and states as the youth are flocking to a new revolution – they’re changing the game.

There have been plenty clubs across Europe, from Barca to Celtic, that organise camps for promising youngsters in many of the metropolitans in India. Unfortunately, too many of these very same footballers, despite their talent, tend not to take up football seriously or professionally, as it just doesn’t pay well here. I’ve played alongside some superb players, who are forced to give up the beautiful game, to take up studies instead, which are still a priority in many Indian households.

Since going to a club’s stadium all the way from the sub-continent presents itself as a slight logistical problem, Indians all over are glued to their televisions and social networking sites as they tweet, comment and exult over match proceedings all at the same time, creating an electric atmosphere in spite of not being ‘there.’ Many a time, supporters get together, beers and pizza on hand, as they live the match on screens in front of them. I’ve been to a few match screenings myself, organised by “Bangalore Gunners”, and have watched as fans from different states and backgrounds unite as one during these thrilling 90 minutes. Of course, I hope to witness the great game firsthand as well – with a probable short trip through some parts of Europe on my agenda this October/November, I definitely have a couple Arsenal games in mind, and hopefully a North London Derby will be my first at the Grove!

  

 A “Bangalore Gunners” match screening at a pub.

 Having just recently turned 18, access to all pubs and bars is now a lot easier and I look forward to these meet-ups this season. A lot of the time, I’d rather sit at home and watch Arsenal get down to business with some Chinese take-out than go out with my friends. I am a bit superstitious, and I always watch the big, big games at home with my red flag suspended over the telly!

But when I do attend these match screenings, I meet fans from every walk of life. All united by the glorious game on the screen, and for that hour and a half, an irreplaceable aura surrounds the room giving you a feeling of complete belonging. I imagine this feeling of course would be magnified 10 fold at the Emirates. Hearing everyone hold their collective breath as players like Wilshere and Arteta hovered over the ball, with the goal in sight; those are the moments you cherish and savour. A moment to forget, and I’m sure all Indian football fans will agree with me, is Blackburn’s relegation from the top-flight. Indian poultry giant, Venky’s, agreed to take over Rovers in November 2010, promising a finish in the top 5. They were linked with shock bids for Ronaldinho and Beckham, which quickly faded away, and were replaced by the uninspiring and almost unheard-of recruits in the form of Mauro Formica and Ruben Rochina. From that point, I knew it would end in tears.

It all went downhill from there, with the Rao family refusing to contribute necessary spending on bringing in fresh faces. Rovers fans were pushed further apart from the board after they refused to sack Steve Kean, who took over from Fat Sam and failed to impress. They stuck with him, but all Kean could do was watch as Blackburn, who were League champions in ’95, plummet to The Championship. It was a deal that never should’ve happened, as they never kept their promises and let down the fans in so many ways. I just hope that they somehow make it back up to the Premier League soon.

The state of both India’s economy and footballing fanbase have been the same for the past few years; growing. Consequently, as Indian spending power gradually increases, more and more fans are seen lined up in front of stores (of course, not always the ‘official’ ones) to buy the latest kits or their team’s branded goods, in an effort to take their support for their club to the next level. So just because they can’t make it to the stadium doesn’t mean they can’t contribute; and one look at the global football spectrum sees Indians making up a large percentage of each club’s world footprint. It infuriates me when I see people label overseas fans as “armchair supporters.” I hope they know that at least some of us probably know as much about and also love the club as they do, especially after seeing thousands of Arsenal fans gather to watch their favourite side during the Asia tour.

I must to admit, I have a friend who knows a guy who works at Nike in Bangkok, where most football jerseys are made, and he often gets rid of the “rejected” stock, which often have a stitching error or a slight stain, by selling it for almost 1/3rd the price. The official jerseys cost about Rs. 3,200, but I have picked up a few of these “first copies,” as we call them here, for about Rs. 1,300.

Indian supporters don’t have the luxury of coming from generations of a club’s loyal fanbase, and so need to make an important decision in their lives; which club to support. This is a decision that often separates even the closest siblings coming from the very same home. The majority of fans I’ve met, around my own age of 18, belong to the ‘big clubs’, with United winning most of them, and Chelsea claiming almost as many. Quite surprisingly, I do happen to know three Spurs fans and one City fan. The latter certainly isn’t a glory hunter as he’s backed the Sky Blues for about ten years now.

This very same lack if direct association between our country and the seat of International football however, lends a bitter taste to fans’ choices. It almost sickens me that a lot of them don’t know much about their clubs, and don’t necessarily watch most of their games, but when it’s time to lift a trophy, they’re all huhe diehard fans. I’ve seen a fan from the sub-continent quickly switching loyalties when frustrated by Liverpool’s team’s lack of success, obviously eager for the triumph of Man City. He got some flak from fans all the world, including me, and the funny part was that he tried to defend his flighty decision, by saying that he’d been thinking it over for some time and was “fed up” of Liverpool.

Personally, it’s an amusing story as to how I became a Gunner. Coming from a school that only has basketball and football; I chose the latter sport for some reason and played it every break. I slowly started grew more interested in the game and so I started joining my brother, three years older than me, on the couch every Saturday and Sunday night watch 22 men knock the ball about for 90 minutes. And as all brothers do, we fought and argued about everything. He’s somehow made his way into United fandom, and so, for the sake of controversy, I decided to be a “supporter” of this club called Arsenal, who seemed to be their fiercest rivals. The fact that the club had a cannon on their crest further encouraged me to pursue my interest in the red and white army. The cannon; an instrument of battle, a symbol of strength, power has always appealed to me far more than any random fire-breathing lion or chicken on a baseball ever would. It was undoubtedly another reason for me to join the ranks of Gunner fans.

My first real memory as an Arsenal fan is that of watching Martin Keown, Ashley Cole and Lauren terrorize and torment Ruud van Nistelrooy after his dive and penalty miss at Old Trafford in 2003. For some reason, that thuggery, not only amused me, but also drew me in and I became a more frequent watcher of Arsenal games, eventually becoming a dedicated fan. At the time, I really didn’t care if we were winning or losing, I just wanted to watch The Arsenal.

  

  I can honestly say that I don’t remember watching many games during the Invincibles era and of the FA Cup winning squad after, but from ’06, this weekend hobby evolved into an obsession. ESPN replaced Cartoon Network and my favourite t-shirt soon became that red and white Arsenal jersey (with a certain Henry on the back). Waking up for school on Wednesday or Thursday mornings ten minutes earlier than usual to check the Champions League games’ scores on the Internet became a tradition, as my parents banned me from watching the games past midnight until I was about 13. I soon caught up with our history and the games I had missed over the years through a lot of reading and watching countless YouTube videos. When I think it over, Henry was undoubtedly my favourite player, and what I loved most about him was his ability to make something out of nothing. He would turn a match on its head in a blink of an eye with ease and make it look like it was all part of the plan.

One game that I’ll never forget is strangely the home win to Porto in the Champions League, back in March 2010. I had the most important chemistry exam of my life at 8 AM that morning, but I still stayed up till 2:30 AM to watch Bendtner run riot against the Portugese side. Needless to say, I didn’t fare too well in that exam, but it was worth it. (In my books, Nick went from hero to zero immediately after THAT miserable first touch late at the Camp Nou, which could’ve buried the game after van Persie, was given his marching orders. Unforgivable.)

Referee you are having a laugh!

Another fond memory was when I was to stay a night at the hospital after having a bad neck injury while playing the game myself, which caused my spinal cord to shift in September 2010. I reached my hospital room after a series of scans only to find out that the TV didn’t have the channel which was showing the Arsenal vs. Standard Liege game. I asked my Mum if we could request for another room, but she shut me up with a lecture about not having my priorities set right and I was forced to ask my friend to send me updates via text, which I hate.

 

Yes this is Pranoy himself as proud as Sir Bob

 

It was the feeling that you were wearing this big gun on your chest. And my goodness, everywhere you went, you felt proud wearing it.” – Bob Wilson.

 Over the years, there have been many low points in my journey as an Arsenal fan. One that particularly stands out was the week in February of 2011, where we went from quadruple contenders to title pretenders in just two weeks, after just one calamitous half at the SJP. I confess, in that time, I had one foot on the Arsene out bandwagon, but I realised soon that I was quick to jump to that conclusion and that there was a lot happening behind the scenes that we didn’t know about. (Sorry for that, Arsene!)

When teams lose games, the amount of banter thrown around between fans in India is pretty big as well. I play for a local club, and our captain, who is six years older than me, is a Chelsea fan. He received quite a few texts from me after our win at the Bridge last campaign, but gladly returned the favour when they won the cup double. Honestly, most of my closer friends who support other cubs don’t dare say anything to me after Arsenal losses, because they know how much the club means to me and how badly I take teasing sometimes!

Football in India is undoubtedly on the rise. It’s not going to go away any time soon. This new-found Indian pastime, and as ‘Podolski turns and shoots!’ the screaming shouts of ‘Goal!’ will only get louder as more and more Indians join in the chorus. Yes, us Arsenal fans have to look back to May 2005 for the last time they had had a celebratory, trophy-winning drink, but that will not dampen our spirits or lessen our adoration for the club. The Arsenal is here to stay.

Thanks Pranoy for sharing your journey into Goonerdom and giving us a further insight into the highs and lows of being a Gooner in Bangalore. Don’t worry though there are ‘Glory hunters’ in England as well! Please share you views with Pranoy in the comments or @GodisDutch10

Until next time thanks for reading and if you missed India Gooner Passion 2 click here:

http://1nildown2oneup.net/in-every-way-and-every-day-i-win-a-little-bit-more-with-arsenal-from-humble-beginning-to-a-combination-winning/

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitterhttp://twitter.com/goonerdave66

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24 comments

  1. Dude superlikd to ths post….growng up in hood wth utd and chelsea fans,its tough to be a gooner but love for d club gets us going <3…..n btw i have a nasri jersey ,i want to sell it off lol,and plz tell me where do u get the jersey for just 1400 bucks :0 😛 ,n ya happy independence to y'all

  2. hi Pranoy, great reading your post. I have noticed in many of the posts, that our fans who live abroad are called ‘Armchair Supporters’. I can tell you this is completely inaccurate and any real AFC fan would not utter such a thing. We call ourselves a Goonerfamily and that’s exactly what we are no matter where you live. I am overwhelmed by the excitement &optimism felt all our Indian fans. I’m sure you are all looking forward to Saturday.
    Hopefully we will hit the ground running, we need a better start than last season. We have our new players, they will want that too.Thanks again

    1. Thank you, Madge.
      I once got a tweet sometime last season saying I couldn’t comment on what I think should or shouldn’t happen during this transfer market. Was baffled by the comment. Won’t name the person though.

      Thanks for reading and I’m delighted Dave gave me this opportunity to write for him.

    2. There’s nothing wrong with being an “armchair supporter”. 😉 I know it can be used as a derogatory term by those who think they are so much better than others because they have a season ticket but I would argue that many of our “armchair supporters” are much better informed and probably watch a hell of a lot more games than most of our season ticket holders. There are very few ST holders who watch all 38 premier league games live and I cannot name a single person whom I have ever met or spoken to who is a ST holder and does watch all of the games whereas I can name at least 60 people I’ve met on twitter just this year that watch every single game and I’ve found that they are generally more positive about the club and the players because they actually see everything and not the garbled crap a lot of “fans” get from Match Of The Day.

      I actually feel that most of our overseas supporters and those unfortunate enough not to be able to attend matches regularly are “better” supporters than the majority of our home support (FWIW I think our away support is incredible). I have often moaned about the lack of atmosphere at the Emirates and how the only noise most of the fans make is the booing of their own players.

      I am regularly told by ST holders “I deserve to watch Arsenal win the league because I pay a lot of money for my ST”. I tell them to wake up and realise that no team is entitled to anything and if they don’t like paying their ST fees for the football they are treated to (and it is a treat… imagine paying to watch Stoke every week :-o) then they should give it up because there are 40’000 people waiting for a ST who would feel privileged to go every week and would actually make some noise!

      Sorry for hijacking this comment thread, great post Pranoy and embrace every moment as an “armchair supporter” because when the day comes that you visit the Emirates you will savour it all the more and will sing for your team so loudly you’ll put the moaning long term ST holding git in the seat next to you to utter shame.

      1. Yeah, our away fans are arguably the best. Specially loved the fact that they stuck around for 30 minutes after OT had cleared out after the 8-2 hammering, singing “We love you Arsenal”. That was super. Respect to them.
        Hoping to catch one home game and one away game if and when I do come to the UK later this year, to get the proper feel of things.
        Thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      2. Thanks Daniel. I wholeheartedly agree with their are no armchair, loyal or any other type of supporters, just true Arsenal supporters. Not sure I concur with the latter part as most supporters who go week in week out are 100% positive and paying money regularly or for a season in advance is a huge financial burden. Actually I find you comments on the majority of our home support very negative indeed. You cannot claim we are all supporters and then go the opposite way and suggest those who don’t go are better then thiose who go to all the home games. All supporters who love the club are equal regardless.

  3. I’ve been an Arsenal fan ever since ’99 and I’ve been a gooner ever since. I’d love to know where I could get the arsenal kit for 1300.

  4. Top post my friend! 🙂

    We may not have a lot of supporters in India as compared to the Utd Chelsea hybrid fairweather fans, but however many we do have, they are staunch, loyal, and everything a supporter needs to be, shoulders dying to carry the cannon, I could feel the passion!

  5. Well, I remember after the 8-2 defeat, the next morning he came to school
    with an Arsenal Scarf around his neck showing the colours of a true fan.
    Nice article Noy.

  6. Awesome bro.your representing all of us in your views and opinions.Also thanks for mentioning about the jerseys.I ll give you a cut if i get some overseas clients lol.

    1. Thanks a lot for reading, Som.
      Haha, if anyone was wondering, this is the friend I get the jerseys from!

  7. Great stuff, Pranoy and Dave. I really enjoyed this post. I don’t get to go to the Grove as much as I’d like to, so if you’re an ‘armchair supporter’ then I am too. I’m happy to be the same kind of fan as someone with your passion for the club.
    Anyway, we can’t be armchair supporters because I’m sure, like me, you spend most of the match jumping out of your seat.
    Well done!

    1. Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed it.
      I’m really looking forward to my first visit to the Grove.

  8. thumbs up! The story of becoming a gunner is exactly same for me as well…The van nistelrooy incident

  9. Very well written article, Pranoy. Your insights and anecdotes are spot on and strike the right chord with footie fans. I watch and follow football with my kids and we are very passionate about the game as well. Its great to see youngsters like you in India do the same. When I was growing up in Bangalore, cricket was the ONLY game that people were crazy about. Lets hope football gets bigger and better in the coming years in India.

    1. Thank you! Really glad you liked it.
      Yes, really hope football just gets bigger.
      Chhetri getting picked up by Sporting CP is just a stepping stone for much bigger things.

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