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French Forefathers

BY SAM PALERME / @Palerme12

Every football supporter, when asked, has a reason or story as to how or why they support the club they do. In my experience the most common responses pay lip service to either geographical location or a tradition passed down the generations.

If I had been born in France like my father, Marcel, I would have most likely become a fan of Saint Etienne. Les Vertes are Dad’s team back home and he was a regular there during his youth, seeing them win numerous titles and reaching the 1976 European Cup Final. That was until the late seventies when he left the region, moved to England, met and married my mother and fathered my sister and me.

It wasn’t until the late eighties that football became a key part in Dad’s life again. He was working as a milkman alongside a group of colleagues who enjoyed going to matches every weekend. While they could have supported any old club in the capital – the consequences of which don’t bear thinking about – they were all Arsenal supporters. When they found out that Dad had been a big football fan back in France and had a passing affection for Norwich City (to this day I’ve never known or understood why) as well as a dislike of Spurs, they had enough of a platform for him to become a Gooner.

One Saturday he was finally asked: “The Arsenal are playing Norwich at Highbury today Marcel, would you like to join us?” His answer was yes and the rest, as they say, is history. He became my family’s Arsenal ‘founding father’.

It wasn’t long before my sister and I were also introduced to The Arsenal way of life. We both made our debuts in the 1990/91 season – my sister at home to Luton Town (aged 8), for me an away trip to Loftus Road versus QPR (aged 6). Our regular spot was behind the Clock End goal. There were concrete posts supporting the advertising boards, over which a steward would kindly place his coat to ‘reserve’ it for us – the post was needed to make us tall enough for seeing the game over the top of the advertising boards. I’m glad I was able to experience the terraces for a brief time before all seater stadia became mandatory; being right at the front really brought to life the swaying and surging ocean of fans behind me as I stood on small my concrete island.

With the rise of the seated arena came a change of location. My concrete island in the Clock End was replaced with an amazing view in the North Bank upper. Becoming bond holders, two of which were bought, meant football was now a father son experience with my sister only joining us when spares became available. At first we could only afford to attend the bigger games, with the stand out memory being the North London derby of 1996, with Adams and Bergkamp scoring great goals in a 3-1 victory. I’ll never forget the atmosphere that night, and proudly chanting “3-1, we beat the scum 3-1” as I left the ground.

Our next major milestone was becoming season ticket holders, and we couldn’t have timed it better – Wenger’s first full season – 1997/98 – ‘The Double’. I was too young to really remember and appreciate Anfield ‘89 and George Graham’s second title in ‘91. So Sunday 3rd May 1998, Arsenal 4-0 Everton, will always be my first real title winning experience. It is a game that will forever be  one of my most cherished Arsenal memories. I can’t put into words, the emotions I felt, but I think we can all agree on the crowning moment.  “Adams, put through by Steve Bould”…”Would you believe it?” It really did “...sum it all up!”

To this day Dad and I are still season ticket holders, having, like so many, made the gut-wrenching move from Highbury to the Emirates. I’ll forever be indebted to my Dad for making me a Gooner and to both he and Mum for buying tickets, replica shirts, and many other items until I was old enough and employed enough to buy my own.

And finally, whether it was by luck or simply destiny I will be forever grateful that when Dad worked ‘on the milk’ he was amongst Arsenal supporters because, let’s face it, there really is no other club like The Arsenal.

5 League Titles, 5 FA Cups, 2 League Cups and 1 Cup Winners Cup in my lifetime alone…more than most clubs have won in their entire history.

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Reader Comments (1)

I live in India and have to be content with watching the team on tele only, but I can very well relate to the the feelings you have put across in this nice piece of writing. Just to mention I was 'Arsenalized' with the beginning of live regular broadcast of PL here in my country around the turn of the millennium.

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJay
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