Monday, 8 May 2006

It's the time of the season (for loving)

Another Premiership season is over, and for the second season in a row I hardly saw any of it but short glimpses of the second and a half prior to a crucial goal being scored per week.
The story of the last round was Arsenal clinching fourth place out of Tottenham's grasp at the very last second, with the help of Thiery Henry, Westham, and some mysterious food poisoning that affected half of the Tottenham squad. Now I'm not about to argue whether Arsenal deserved that spot or whether Tottenham should have had it; I think that both teams had their share of luck as well as misfortune this season.
What I don't get is the stupid rivalry between those clubs. If you have a look at Arsenal supporters' websites and you see the way they talk about Tottenham supporters, you would think they're actually talking about Nazi Germany. The same applies to the Tottenham sites, which are not exactly pure and kind. I just cannot understand how the support for a particular team can get people who live right next to one another to treat one another so badly; this is not "sport", this is tribalism at its worse. There is nothing to really differentiate these two people, and of all things that could do it it's definitely not an affection to a particular brand that is basically out there to make money and as one can see from time to time doesn't really care about its supporters (by the way, both clubs are owned by Jewish families).
Now there is no doubt about me being an Arsenal supporter, but I have nothing against Tottenham. If anything, I actually like them; and although the Champions League wouldn't have looked the same without Arsenal (which still have the chance to fuck things up in pre-qualifying), I think the missed opportunity for some new face on the block is a major shame.
My affection for Tottenham goes further, though. You see, the reason why I support Arsenal is rather mundane: the first time I saw football being played on a color TV, Arsenal was playing, and I liked their red color, so I remembered them. However, lots of sewage went down the Yarra since; for most of my early childhood it was Liverpool with Kenny Delglish and his lot that everyone my age looked up to. Then, in the early eighties, came Tottenham's age, with names like Hoddle and Woddle and whoever else that ends with a doddle (as well as Ardilles): they were just playing beautiful football.
Then there was a long pause, after which I was mostly a Manchester United supporter. Cantona was too flamboyant to ignore, and they were just playing exciting football. In fact, the game I still remember the most as the game that made me most enthusiastic ever about football was not an Arsenal game but rather a ManU one: That historic Champions League final against Bayern Munich. How I enjoyed them beating those evil Germans! I still remember the cries of joy coming out of all living rooms that fatal night, way after midnight, and my mother rushing in to my room, scared, asking why all the neighbors are shouting at this hour of the night (I couldn't answer her; I was shouting, too).
In fact, my come back to Arsenal came only because of a certain player called Bergkamp. I liked him, I liked his style, I liked him being Dutch. So slowly I drifted back to my Arsenal roots, and when FIFA 99 came out and all the commentator could say was "Berkamp scores!" every time I scored I became a true believer again. So yes, you have every right to call me a fair weather supporter, but in my defence I have two things to say:
  1. As much as I am a fair weather supporter, I am also quite critical towards Arsenal. I certainly don't like Henry's arrogance, and I didn't really approve of the way they beat Villareal (I offer this blog as evidence).
  2. I am a fan of football much more than a fan of Arsenal. Yes, during the Wenger era Arsenal has been playing some of the most attractive football any team has ever played, and I'm proud of that; but during the time I drifted away they were mostly known as "boring boring Arsenal" and "Arsenal 1:0". Now why should I support a team that is as exciting as George W?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that sports are just sports, and should not be taken for anything more than that. Yes, Arsenal will be playing on Uri's birthday for the Champions League crown (actually, here it would be the 18th when they play), but being that Barcelona plays the most attractive football out there at the moment, I wouldn't feel bad at all when they beat the crap out of Arsenal.
I would, however, feel much better if Arsenal wins. Especially if the winning goal is scored by a certain Bergkamp.

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