This post is inspired by the new product range at the excellent Casa Rebelde, a shop located in Templebar that sells ‘clothing for the discerning football fan and revolutionary’. It’s my favourite clothing retail outlet, their t-shirts are just deadly – plus they stock a whole range of St. Pauli gear, which is a massive plus!
When I was 9, the world cup in the United States caught my attention. The beautiful game hadn’t interested me before, I was more intent on playing soldiers and watching war films, or playing computer games on the PC – Police Quest, B17: Flying Fortress, Das Boot, Duke Nukem, all sorts. So seeing Ireland beat Italy in New York, the incredible solo run & finish from Saeed Owairan for Saudi Arabia against Belgium, Bulgaria romping to the semi-finals and the dramatic final penalty shootout…well, I was hooked. I began playing footie with my big brother every day, pretending to be the commentator as I played, switching between all the great players I’d seen during the tournament; “It’s Raducioiu here, he knocks it to his left and Philippe Albert passes across to Letchkov, Letchkov dinks it through to Amokachi, who hits it and SCORES!!! DANIEL AMOKACHI WITH A BREATHTAKING STRIKE!”
Anyway, during USA ’94 my mum and I went into our local newsagents in Lucan, and there I spotted a magazine celebrating Arsenal’s capture of the now-defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup the season before. I read it through the rest of the world cup, and when we were on holiday in Portugal at the very end of the tournament I remember pretending to be Merson and Adams and, of course, Wright during my kickabouts with the bruv. So that was that, really; my team was Arsenal. For better or worse, there was no way back from it.
A few months passed… All my sponge-like memory was now devoted to absorbing everything I could about football and Arsenal FC. One thing was missing though; I hadn’t my own replica jersey. The other lads in school, most of whom supported Man United, Liverpool, Leeds or Chelsea – there was one lad I remember who had a Nottingham Forest shirt, a guy who, when I was smaller and had longer hair, had threatened to ‘squeeze all the blood’ outta my arms if I didn’t admit I was a girl. I’d be lying if Forest’s subsequent decline hasn’t provided some grim satisfaction.
Anyway. Suddenly Halloween was coming up, and I was gonna go trick-or-treating with my flame-haired Liverpool-supporting friend Greg, so my mum took me out shopping for a costume. You probably know what’s coming; I dragged her into a shop, probably Champion Sports or somewhere, and insisted that she buy me the full Arsenal kit. Even though back then it was £35 or thereabouts for the lot – approximately HALF what you’d be having to pay these days – me ma laid it out for me; either I get the kit, or a proper costume I could go trick-or-treating in. Didn’t even have to think about it.
So, on Halloween night there was Greg, done up to the nines in what I still recall to be absolutely perfect regalia in the style of The Mask, a good few of his friends and mine in various kinds of vampire, ghost and witch outfits that I don’t remember at all, to be honest…and me. Pleased as punch, in my full kit – boots an’ everythin’ – in all my Gunners glory.
I still get kinda embarrassed whenever I think of that – why the fuck didn’t I wear something else? Was I just too dumb to realise that you’re supposed to dress up as something scary or at least something thematically consistent with All Hallow’s Eve? Did I just not give a fuck? Did I wanna show off to my friends, just how big an Arsenal fan I was? I suppose that last one is possible, since I’d only just become a football fan, I guess. Doesn’t really fit with who I was though. More likely I just thought it was much easier than trying to think of a proper costume – which is, admittedly, something that still vexes me every Halloween.
Still, though. That was my first football shirt. JVC the sponsors – Just Very Clever, as my bruv used to say – with Arsenal written across the bottom of the back in navy letters in the classic script font. The sleeves were only white on the top half, but I was too young to realise the shittiness of this and how it flew in the face of our traditions…unfortunately I would become intensely familiar with Nike’s penchant for absolutely crapping all over Arsenal’s history. I loved that shirt though, even when the J and the C peeled off – I simply pretended the remaining V was for Victory!
That’s the story, anyway. All that remains to be said is this; wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re enjoying your club’s marvellous mediocrity, Forest fucker. And, to all my fellow Gooners; Keep the Faith. We are THE Arsenal.
Victoria Concordia Crescit, Fratris et Sororis…