(Written 12.05.2022. Final result: Spurs 3 Arsenal 0)
When I last dared to look, I saw that the Arsenal were being hammered by Spurs at White Hart Lane tonight. Really annoying, and always a bit saddening when that happens.
Now I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does.
I appreciate that there are many for whom football holds no interest. But then again, they should appreciate that football is central to our popular culture and has been for well over a hundred years.
The upper-classes have their ballet, their theatre, their huntin’ and fishin’ : the working-class has football. It is a sport that people grow up with. It is part of their identity.
This is partly because of their local teams that they grow to support through watching them every other week at their home ground, the biggest theatres in town with the most dramatic shows, shows they can participate in with their noise, shows where they can shout out exactly what they think and how they feel in ways which are forbidden to them everywhere else (something they would have learned from the grown-up who took them to their first games).
It is also partly due to the ease with which it can be played, needing just a ball (or something which can be kicked around if no ball is available), and any spare patch of ground where coats can be laid down as goalposts or a goal can be chalked on a wall. Money, unlike most other areas of life, is not a defining factor, which is another reason for its attraction.
And there is also the ambition football can breed, as street kickarounds are chronically the stage for spectacular fantasy as the younger players imagine themselves in the role of their footballing heroes doing great deeds in front of cheering crowds (while the mid-day factory-yard kickarounds of workers once allowed them an expressive physical freedom their work didn’t give them).
My association with Arsenal didn’t go back so early in my life, since I was in my twenties when I went to my first game at Highbury in 1972 (Arsenal 3 Nottingham Forest 0); but I was hooked from the start, and didn’t miss a game there for the next ten years.
For various reasons, I stopped attending; but I have followed the Arsenal’s fortunes ever since, and my life would be the lesser without all the excitement, all the joys and the disappointments that go with that. Anybody who supports a team,especially their home team, will know what I mean.
So, even though tonight is turning out to be a very bad night for all us Gooners, I will still follow my team in the same spirit as all those kids do who adopt the names of their favourite players while they strive to do something worthy before their parents called them in for tea (back in the day I wanted to be Stanley Matthews: everybody did). Again, any-one who has a team they love will feel the same.