When it became clear that Arsenal F. In my search I draw upon the ideas of Benedict Anderson, Anthony Giddens, and Zygmunt Bauman, using them to help explain how Arsenal fandom has taken on an international flavour. And in the second half of this paper, I contemplate the reasons why fans would follow a football club like Arsenal in the first place. I thereby seek to uncover the conditions needed for fans to be able to become intensely passionate about a football club, however many tens or hundreds or thousands of kilometres they may live from it.
The Imagined Community of Arsenal F. The last two decades have seen English football assume a position of preeminence in the world of entertainment. Ever since the Premier League was established in as England's top division of men's football, English football has become an internationally marketable commodity. As one of the most successful clubs in the country, with 13 top division league trophies and 12 FA Cups,5 Arsenal F.
Needless to say, more than one in every people living on the earth today would be a Gooner, the colloquial term for Arsenal fan. With more than half of its supporters residing outside of England, it can be said that Arsenal is inherently multicultural. If multiculturalism expresses the idea of a society containing several cultures, then Arsenal, with a community so large and containing so many multitudes,13 could not possibly be reduced to a single culture.
Arsenal F.C.: Full name Nickname(s) Founded Ground
Although each one inhabits a different political worldview, they nonetheless share at least one space of individuation in common: a love of Arsenal. Oxford, and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell, , p. Even if a country like New Zealand has clearly defined borders that separate it from other countries, to say that it ends at the Pacific Ocean would exclude the estimated , New Zealanders who may still imagine themselves belonging to the nation, despite living beyond its shores.
To my mind, Arsenal qualifies as an imagined community insofar as Gooners consider themselves as such;25 the question as to whether Arsenal should be called an imagined community or an imagined world should matter less than how such a community has arisen in the first place. Ergo: I think therefore I am. Blackshaw, Tony. Accessed November 24, With high-definition cameras filming matches as they unfold in real time, and satellites beaming the footage to televisions and computers around the world, football fans who are not in the stadium physically, can still experience being there vicariously, through the lens of the camera.
Giddens argues that in modern societies, which are marked by such dimensions as industrialisation and capitalism,29 time and space are not tied inextricably together as they are in pre-modern societies, 26 Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-identity. Cambridge: Polity Press, , p. In conditions of modernity, place becomes increasingly phantasmagoric: that is to say, locales are thoroughly penetrated by and shaped in terms of social influences quite distant from them.
The fact that a place may be 70, fathoms32 away does not necessarily preclude one from interacting with it in real time. Sondaal, Tiest. Though fixed to its geographical location, Emirates Stadium can appear, on rectangular screens, in millions of places at once. This is not to suggest that watching matches via the space of flows is in any way identical to attending games in the stadium, however.
Certain match experiences remain the preserve of those present in the stadium: television viewers cannot, for instance, smell the grass or shout messages that players on the pitch could potentially hear. As Edensor and Milington assert, on matchday, the stadium possesses an atmosphere — that most intangible of things that, to all intents and purposes, cannot be found elsewhere.
Though virtually invisible, the television audience's presence is most evidently seen in the organising of match schedules.
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Sybille Frank and Silke Steets. Why does the world love the English Premier League? What it Means to be a Gooner That an English institution would be followed by so many non- English people illustrates the paradox of time-space distanciation: even if one does not live within English borders, or know anything about English culture, one may still have an intense relationship with a football club that is deeply embedded in the nation's heritage.
The linguistic and cultural diversity of Gooners suggests that Arsenal is a new kind of empire; but unlike the European imperialists of old, the club does not conquer far-off lands and peoples by means of violence. While the sun has long since set on the British Empire, the Arsenal Empire girdles the world, its subjects submitting to it not out of coercion, but of choice. Because of their vast differences, the way for Gooners to mark themselves out categorically from everyone else, whether in the football firmament or in the real world, is to base their collective identity on following Arsenal — which, of course, most people in the world do not do.
London: Michael Joseph, , p. Kurt H. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, , p.
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Although these clubs are themselves heterogeneous, they all share the distinction of not being Arsenal. Neighbouring clubs, for instance, tend to be treated with superior hostility. According to a survey conducted between August and February , Arsenal fans consider Tottenham Hotspur as their largest rival,43 which is perhaps based on the fact that the clubs occupy a similar geographical area in North London.
Oxford; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell, , p. The lengths some fans would go to avoid sleeping with the enemy suggests that football fandom is not simply confined to the realm of entertainment; in the most extreme cases fandom may take priority over amorous love.
By a curious irony, Tottenham Hotspur is disliked even by Arsenal fans who live nowhere near North London. It is possible that few of the people who approved of the Facebook post even have ever been to North London; yet by disliking Tottenham Hotspur, they introduce the North London turf war to the country most far afield from their home nation as geography allows. This can be seen in the language adopted by football fans.
On 7th 48 As of There's a reason we're called The Invincibles and have a golden PL trophy! Ben Porat, Amir. Since there is no obligation to follow football in the first place, fandom is purely voluntary. As one American fan of Liverpool F. Those who desire Arsenal can buy into the club, and in so doing undergo a kind of naturalisation that imbues them 56 Cornel Sandvoss, A Game of Two Halves.
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London and New York: Routledge, , p. To paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir, we are not born a Gooner; we become one. Since Arsenal is a cultural identity that welcomes everyone, then anyone, regardless of nationality, religion, culture, or any other identity-denoting category, can become part of its culture. Put another way, foreign languages are in the cultural supermarket, but often on the top shelves, beyond the reach of many.
London: Routledge, , p. Consumers need not part with their cash to become Gooners; their fandom is simply a matter of cheering on the team. The lack of barriers to entry means that Arsenal is what Zygmunt Bauman would call liquid. Nick Hornby, who wrote the bestselling autobiographical novel Fever Pitch, which recounts his experiences of following Arsenal from the s to the early s, confessed that upon arriving at Cambridge University in , he became a fan of the local team, Cambridge United.
But he insists that while supporting his new club, he remained a devout Gooner: I was not being unfaithful to Arsenal, because the two teams did not inhabit the same universe.
If the two objects of my adoration had ever run up against each other at a party, or a wedding, or another of those awkward social 61 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Life, Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press, , p. On the one hand, his supporting Cambridge United does not in any way dilute his remarkably obsessive love of Arsenal. As a customer, he can place both clubs in his cultural supermarket trolley without fearing reprisals from either. On the other hand, the blurring of identities makes determining the practical size of the Arsenal Empire all but impossible. If Gooners can support clubs other than Arsenal, they may end up supporting Arsenal's major rivals like Tottenham Hotspur.
Were this to be the case, it would mean that some Gooners are, at the same time, non-Gooners. Head of Facilities:.
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