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Tuesday
Nov012011

Getting the Feel For It

BY TOM ADAMS / @TomEurosport

Earliest football memories are invariably coloured by strong sensual motifs, whether it be the sound of tribal chants emitting from an as yet undiscovered stadium as you approach tentatively for the first time, or the sight of 11 giant men emerging from a tunnel resplendent in colours that are destined to nestle deep into your heart.

Mine are no different. I can still vividly recall Luton Town away on Boxing Day, 1991: sat surreptitiously in the home end at Kenilworth Road, alongside my Dad, I can still hear the frightening intensity of the Luton chants, as the wooden stand shook beneath me; can still recall gazing out and seeing Paul Merson, David Rocastle, Ian Wright and Anders Limpar, my childhood heroes, representing my club with pride; can still feel that funny sixth sense, as we lost 1-0 to a Mick Harford goal, that live football had a cruel streak that no combination of the literature that shaped my early years – mostly Match, Shoot and Pro Set cards - could ever prepare me for.

But those are not my earliest memories of being an Arsenal fan. My earliest memory is instead dominated by another sense entirely: touch.

In retrospect, becoming an Arsenal fan was no accident, not for a kid growing up on a road where Islington strokes Hackney, where schoolyards bustle with legions of Gooners. But what surely secured lifelong affiliation to the Arsenal cause was not just geography or social osmosis. It was also that first, mysterious, magical kit.

I can’t remember when I first pulled it on, or indeed where, but I will never forget the feel of the fabric on my seven-year-old fingers. The smooth, vinyl-like sheen of the red synthetic shirt, giving way to the furry, bubbly protrusion of the Arsenal crest, the undulating adidas symbol and the coarse, bold JVC logo. As synapses fizzed, this sensory overload made an indelible mark in my brain that has not faded over time.

In a quirky sartorial choice I combined the home shirt with the away shorts (a fashion faux pas unfortunately committed to home video), and can still remember tracing those adidas stripes, bordered by bright yellow and dark blue, down the thigh, down to where a subtle yellow ‘AFC’ was embossed, reinforcing the notion that this was the livery sported by Arsenal, and only Arsenal. Just touching this wonderful kit engendered a very tangible, exciting sense of pride and identity, even in those formative stages of the process of becoming a supporter.

These memories are woven into me as those stripes were woven into those shorts. I could not have known it then, but this was the start of a wonderful, unstoppable, emotional process that would result in a football club becoming integral to the very fabric of my life.

Falling for the Arsenal was love at first touch, and from the very beginning, it just felt right.

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