The Religion of supporting Arsenal – From Jerusalem to Mecca to Toronto!!

Today I am delighted to welcome Adam Carter for some ‘Global Gooner Passion’ from Toronto Canada. Slightly different as Adam is an ”Englishman abroad’ but equally interesting.

Being a Gooner is no different to being part of any of the globe’s major religions. We give ourselves over to godly creatures we can’t touch or control, we argue insentiently within our own people about the right way to move our religion forward, we tolerate other religions out there while thinking they are wrong, and we all pray for the salvation that is Arsenal being successful.

And in the same way that a Jew in the Old City of Jerusalem or a Muslim in the heart of Mecca, gain greater spirituality from proximity to their most sacred sites, you would think it’d be easy or natural to drift from the Gooner religion the further away from North London you get.

But nothing could be further from the truth, and I should know!

As a 32 year old Gooner I’ve experienced both sides, the side where I went home and away every game and laughed off the opinions of others that don’t attend (how arrogant was I!), to the last 4 years as a Gooner in exile, living with my young family in Toronto, Canada, where at times I’ve had to hold my cell phone up against the window of my office to get enough reception to reload my twitter feed during a champions league game. If nothing else, living further away requires greater reserves of ingenuity, deception, and commitment to get your fix, but I’ll get to this later.

And that’s why when the chance to share the experience of being a Gooner in Canada was offered, I felt obliged to offer up a blog post. And in so doing, I hope to bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a Canadian Gooner

 Good

There is so much football on Canadian TV that it’s very rare that Arsenal are not on live, and for those times that they are not, the specialty sport channels tend to stream the games for free on their associated websites. Often when I have guests from the UK staying, they can’t believe we have 4 of the 3pm Saturday games live across the different channels.

We have a dedicated pub here in Toronto called the Fox and Fiddle, and if you are ever in town when a game is on, it’s a must visit. Atmosphere is good, food and booze equally, and you get a real sense of being in a boozer back home.  There are other “Arsenal” pubs across Canada and the official website posted pictures from a couple of these of fans celebrating our cup final win. There is an Arsenal Canada website (www.arsenalcanada.ca) which runs fantasy competitions for prizes (jerseys and such) and does a good job of uniting us across Canada (which as the second largest country in the world is no easy feat)

Toronto Gooners team
Toronto Gooners team

Weekend games are on nice and early in the morning, which means you can get your fill and still be the family man your wife wants you to be (although I have spent many a morning at the Zoo, Aquarium, or Canada’s Wonderland frantically updating twitter to keep up to date with the score) It also justifies drinking at 7.45 in the morning, which is actually frowned upon in North America. While that is all positive, it should be noted that for those on the west coast of Canada, games often start at 4.45am which may not seem as great as it does for us!

Toronto Gooner Family
Toronto Gooner Family

Bad

Craig Forrest! Seriously, Craig bloody Forrest!! The Canadian equivalent of the FA (called the CSA) has been around since 1912 and the best player they’ve produced, and thus who we have to suffer as the main TV pundit, is Craig Forrest. For those too young to remember, he’s the bloke who conceded 9 goals at Old Trafford while playing for Ipswich. More recently the main channel here (Rogers Sportsnet) added Danny Dichio which has improved the standard of punditry but he’s no Gary Neville. I laugh when people back home complain about Shearer, Hanson etc – you don’t know how good you’ve got it!

Bad then 9-0 but even worse as a pundit!
Bad then 9-0 but even worse as a pundit!

So I mentioned that there is lots of football on TV which is great, but the fact you have to sell one of your kidneys to afford the subscription is decidedly less so. There are 4 channels, each with their own subscription fee and with no guarantee that the boys will be on any one of them more/less, you kinda have to pay for all of them. Its fine, not every one of my kids needs to go to college right?

You have to deal with the butchering of everything we hold sacred, in that way only North American’s (bless them) can. The Premier League for a long time was known as the BPL (with sports casters unable to decide if this is for Barclays Premier League or British Premier League), a red card can sometimes be referred to as a game misconduct penalty, and penalties are known as PKs. I love following @usasoccerguy on twitter, in part because the way he talks about football is actually reflective of people here (FYI – I know he is on the wind up)

You don’t find that many likeminded fans when you’re out and about. Ice hockey is king in this part of the world, and thus a sport that involves actual skill and where the vast majority of players have a full set of teeth doesn’t seem to appeal. What you do get is a lot of people who have no idea, or those who think they do but don’t. Lot’s of “I’m a Red Devils” fan. Erm, no you are not…just because you liked “bend it like Beckham” does not make you a fan. Of course, there are many genuine football fans here (both Canadian and ex-pat) but it’s hard to find that real, honest banter in the office after a big game on the weekend. We beat Spurs three times this year and each time I had no one to brag about it to the following Monday!!

Ugly

By far the ugliest part of being a Canadian Gooner is the effort I must take to watch champions league games (something of course our dear Tottenham supporting friends are spared) and other week day games (thank goodness we don’t play on Thursdays!). Owing to the fact the games are on at 2.45pm (the worst time in that it’s too late for lunch and too early for the work day to be done), as I’ve alluded to, my ingenuity and deception has been tested to the limit in pursuit of watching the boys. This is of course where our friends out west get pay back, as games there are on at 11.45am/12.45pm meaning they can make a nice work lunch out of it!

Some examples of what I’ve done to watch midweek games include:

  1. Working from home – amazing if you can do it, but on a random Tuesday it’s hard to sell. My boss right now thinks my kids have a really poor immune system
  2. Setting up meetings with myself from 2.30-4.30 so I look like I’m busy in my calendar. This allows me to either book a meeting room to follow the game or get over to the pub to watch it.
  3. Trying to get into work early so as to have more of an excuse to leave by 2.30pm. Rarely works owning to the fact I sleep through my alarm

If I really can’t get out, I must resort to some expert yoga poses in my office in a desperate hope to get reception (I work in an old building) to update my twitter feed on my phone. Note when Ramsey scored against Dortmund I cheered so loudly the entire office turned around.

And speaking of twitter, what a truly awful place to watch a football match that is, but to get the fastest updates it’s the only place to be. I’m sure other exiled Gooners can relate, but why why why can’t people be more specific with their updates! Tweets like “Giroud!!” tend to mean goal, but can also mean “missed a five yard sitter”. I “watched” the penalty shoot out against West Brom on twitter and it was impossible to tell who scored, missed, or what the score was.

Twitter Updates unreliable
Twitter Updates unreliable

So there you have it, the life of being a Gooner in Canada. Jokes aside, Canada is an amazing country, with everything you could want for your life and where people are extremely friendly (you have to be when it gets to -40C outside). And thankfully, Canadian’s take pride in their religious tolerance which allows me to openly display my Gooner side, even if most people have no idea what that is!!

Thanks Adam. Top stuff and you can follow him at @adamcarter05 as I know he would love to widen his twitter base. And here he is but don;t let it put you off!

Adam 'Toronto Gooner' Carter
Adam ‘Toronto Gooner’ Carter

 

Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

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5 thoughts on “The Religion of supporting Arsenal – From Jerusalem to Mecca to Toronto!!

  1. Really good article. I live in Maryland on the East Coast of the USA. There is nothing better than waking up on a weekend, having breakfast/lunch and watching Arsenal. I don’t know how people in the UK can deal with waiting until 3pm for kickoff. I’m in college so Champions League games are hard to watch. There aren’t many “true” American soccer fans where I live but the popularity of the game is growing. It seems that Every young male has a FIFA game at his dorm/house.

    I’m originally Pakistani and there are several other international students at my college who love the game. I usually go back to Pakistan during the summer time and it’s unbearable how all my cousins “support Manchester”. This is one of the reasons why I’ve wanted Arsenal to win trophies. I’m sick of seeing so many United and Chelsea “fans”. It’s a real shame that Arsenal aren’t as popular in the States as they should be. All my “neutral” soccer loving friends say Arsenal is the “most likable” or “least detestable” team.

  2. Great post Adam. My wife and I watched a CL game last year at the Fox and Fiddle and had a good time. No such dedicated pub here in Ottawa, but hopefully soon.

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