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Friday
Dec022011

Sharing the Moment

BY RICKY GARCHA / @geezypeas

I thought long and hard about what to write before adding an entry to the Memory Bank...Which game? Which goal? Which player? In the end, I couldn’t decide on one single event, so instead I've opted to write about us and what it means to be a Gooner.

I used to think that only Londoners could know what "Ooh to Be" meant and that only local Gooners could love the club like I do. I was under the assumption that the further away you lived, the more your love for Arsenal was built and relied on success.

I was actually born in Hammersmith and raised on a poor multi-storey council estate in west London (where most couldn't afford to get through the week, let alone buy a ticket for the footy) so I could never claim to have been a regular at The Arsenal in my youth.

I was only about 6 or 7 when I found an Arsenal pin badge in our house and remember it being the first time I encountered the club. I thought the badge and of course the crest were awesome (well it was a big ass cannon and I was very young). I soon learned that both my parents were big Gooners in their youth, which you'd think would help with my 'arsenalisation' but in fact, my early relationship with the club was a very personal and individual one.

My Dad worked away most of the time and being a ‘Westside boy’, most of my friends followed QPR, Chelsea and the other big teams like Liverpool and Manchester United. As a consequence I didn’t get to many games and didn’t have any real fans to share the Capital Gold Saturday afternoon commentaries. On the rare occasions when I was lucky enough to go to Highbury, it was with someone my old man knew, a mate of his who was much older and usually not someone I’d met before.

At the time, I guess my parents were what you would describe as casual Gooners, more concerned with getting through the day with three young children than football. They were aware of the scores, but it didn’t go further than that. As such, whilst a family love for the club pre-dates my birth, it was really my newfound obsession that brought the passion back out in my folks. And it wasn’t just them, seemingly everybody around me got involved from sisters to cousins to uncles – Arsenal was my thing, but I’d let them share it.

I guess like most fanatics, I collected the usual newspaper clippings, videos, posters, stickers, programmes, real tickets (remember those) but I started to go further than that taking home the burger, chip and salt packets and even napkins from my first few games...anything that carried that cannon.

I'd say that my obsession peaked between the ages of 11-13. I would talk about Arsenal 24/7 to anyone and everyone, people in the street, on the bus, anywhere. I'd spout random facts about crowd attendance, ex-managers, players, trophies. You name it, I knew it and if I didn't, I would pretend I did and just make something up. Thinking about it now, even I thought I was a bit weird. I thought I was the only Arsenal nut on the planet.

This continued through my teens, into a different city after my old man dragged me kicking and screaming (mainly sulking) out of 'da endz' at 16 to live in sleepy Buckingham, just outside Milton Keynes. Despite being less than an hour from Highbury, I was devastated. I was now one of the unfortunate souls that had to endure the cross examination from someone like me, for not supporting a local team with the only defence being “I grew up in London, I tell ya,” or, “Me Ma n Pa both support the Arsenal your Honour.”

Because of my self-imposed 'support a local team' ethos, I was sure that my attachment to The Arsenal and hometown London would grow weaker over time. Thankfully it didn’t, in fact it was quite the opposite, you'd be surprised how much stronger my bond became once faced with justifying it on a regular basis.

I moved to Birmingham for a little over a year, but am now back in Milton Keynes and have been blessed with two beautiful Gooner children. Of course in time they’ll have to roll out the old “Me old man grew up in London” line, when they're asked why they don't support the Dons. Perhaps all those United fans in Surrey have fathers who grew up in Salford after all? Although, as I’ve come to realise it really doesn’t matter.

I'm now lucky enough to attend most games and whilst the hour’s drive feels like an eternity on a home match day, it’s a stroll to the shops when compared to those supporters that spend thousands of pounds and travel over land and sea just to enjoy 90 minutes in person with the club they love.

Every time we see something amazing at the Emirates, we share a moment with those around us, be it a glance, a smile or if your sat near me, probably a big cuddle. Instead of having a feeling of ownership, I now have a sense of belonging.

This feeling of belonging however, isn't to the club; it’s to the millions that make up the Gooner family from all around the world. Now through platforms like Twitter, I know that Arsenal fans from Brazil to Bangladesh and Sweden to South Korea are sharing that moment with me.

And that's what “Ooh to Be” means. It means me, it means you, but most of all, it means us.

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