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Monday, 15 February 2010

Bangalore Gooner's Big Day Out

Hi folks,


There was a blinding piece on Sky Sports News last Wednesday about this Indian kid who'd won a prize of a trip from his home in Bangalore, to see his beloved Gunners play Liverpool, after sending in his amusing bedroom video of him serenading his webcam with his own selection of Gooner chants, where he's either seen the words online somewhere and put them to the wrong tune, or where he's made up his own original odes to the "EPL" (note to foreign footie fans, there's no greater giveaway of your geographic detachment from the beautiful game than to refer to it by the EPL acronym).


The montage piece on Sky Sports News was far more heart-warming than the video on it's own, but for all those who missed it, as with absolutely everything else nowadays, I've since found it on YouTube:-




I've alluded to it below, but at half-time last Wednesday, I was thinking to myself "poor lad", as our new stadium rarely rocks at the best of times, but after the downer of our previous four depressing results, at that particular point in Wednesday's proceedings, it seemed as if the Star Newx Corp, or whoever it was who presented the lad with what was perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to the UK to watch the Gunners, couldn't have possibly picked a worse occasion for this pilgrimage, with his initiation into the Gooner tribe coming at a point in time where our entire clan (fans and players alike) all appeared equally depressed and as down in the mouth as I can recall (at least in our recent history at the new gaff).


Thankfully, ultimately it all turned out right on the night and our Slumdog Gooner probably benefited in the end because the euphoric high of success is so much more enjoyable, when one has travelled so much further to experience it, both in a literal sense (all the way from Asia) and psychologically, after climbing all the way back up from the depths of our recent despondency.


The ecstatic reaction to Abou's goal reflected this journey, as one might've thought we'd won the league itself, considering we all went so bonkers. But this was a combination of joy and relief, as if Abou had lifted the lid on the pressure cooker, affording us all the release of letting off all that pent up steam that's built up over the past few weeks.


In truth I half-expected this game to end up honours even. Following on from the battering to our moral by successive defeats against Man Utd and Chelsea, on paper, it wouldn't have been so bad to have bounced back with a draw against the Scousers, providing us with a point which would've helped to consolidate 3rd place. Additionally, Liverpool must have been so relieved to have scrambled back up into contention for Champions League qualification, so soon after having had such ambitions written off by everyone, that I'm sure they'd have bitten off the hand that offered them a draw which would've reinforced their claims to 4th place. And quite frankly their circumspect performance reflected the limit of Benitez' ambitions.


Therefore, although beating an uninspiring Liverpool side is nothing to write home about nowadays, I was delighted to see us show sufficient drive and determination for Diaby to score his goal, instead of us settling for a draw. I suppose the subsequent display of defensive nervousness was always to be expected, due to the fact that we'd completely lost the winning habit. Nevertheless, considering how impotent the Scousers can be in the absence of Torres and when their skipper is having one of his less committed outings, our lack of composure was somewhat disconcerting, as we made such a panic-striken meal of hanging on to our slender one goal margin.


Nevertheless, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted when Howard Webb eventually blew the final whistle and despite being on tenterhooks during the walk back to Highbury Quadrant, convinced that with 15 minutes still to play, Chelsea were bound to poop our party by conjuring up a last minute equaliser, or even a winner against Everton, the way all the other results went our way that night, it felt as if we'd completely cast off our recent defeatist shadow.


Mind you, it's impossible not to wonder what might have transpired if Arsène had played a full-strength side against Stoke in the previous round of the cup and we'd managed to maintain our winning momentum and retain our place in this season's competition? Then again we might still have succumbed to Man Utd and Chelsea and the fact of the matter is that Arsène would've felt forced to rest players in advance of the trip to Porto if we'd still been in the cup this weekend. So perhaps a win against Stoke would've only delayed our exit from the competition by one round.


But these are all 'ifs, ands & maybes' and as an advocate of always playing ones best team, I could now be cursing the fact that we're travelling to Portugal, disadvantaged by injuries and with legs full of lactic acid, after a bruising and exhausting effort to keep our FA Cup hopes alive.


Doubtless this is a debate which will be argued more vociferously, should we fail to progress past Porto. Whereas "Arsène knows" and we'll all continue to be happy bunnies if we ease our way into the quarterfinals of a competition that compliments our style of play (compared to the more physical and frenetic demands of our domestic cup competitions), as one of Europe's top eight clubs. However, pessimist that I am, I can't help but dread the day when our luck eventually runs out in the Champions League, an event which would be made all the more excruciating, if our North London neighbours continue to retain some hope of silverware this season.


Then again there'd be plenty of sadistic pleasure to be had if an expensive day out at Wembley and all those fleets of stretched limos hired to celebrate such a rare feat, all went to waste at the hands of a Chelsea defeat. However in view of the fact that it wasn't so long ago that Wembley was considered our Gooner home from home, it would nonetheless be more than a little galling if the Lilywhites were to get back there for a second time since it's been rebuilt, while we continue to wait for an opportunity to sing that much loved song!


Meanwhile we'll have to look to our kids to recover some pride against Chelsea, as we take on their reserves this evening

Come on you Reds
Big Love
Bernard
____________________________________________________________

It's a sorry state of affairs when one's aspirations for a weekend of football are limited to a desire to see one's local rivals prospects of silverware run their course for yet another campaign. Mercifully this was just a soupcon of the sort of crumbs of Schadenfreude, starvation diet that my Spurs pals have existed on for much of these past few decades. Fortunately normal service will be resumed this week and we Gooners can rely on Eastenders updates from the Lilywhite tom-toms, as the Champions League gravy train is rejoined.

Nevertheless, in spite of what seems like a concerted effort to reduce the oldest knockout tournament on the planet to a tawdry sideshow and the prioritization that is Arsène Wenger's vindication of our own premature FA Cup exit, I couldn't watch last weekend's live selection of beguiling battles for a quarterfinal berth, without feeling more than a little gutted about our lack of involvement.

Doubtless I'll be counting our blessings, if the Gunners travel to Portugal with fresh legs after their weekend off and run rings around the opposition on Wednesday night. Moreover, after having returned from Manchester with our tail between our legs twice already this season, we might've been saved from further embarrassment. Even if we'd ended up playing at Eastlands on Saturday by beating Stoke in the last round, the imminent resumption of the Champions League would've guaranteed the sort of weakened team selection, which might've struggled against Mancini's mob.

Some of these passionate cup encounters deserved far more than the bizarre and pitiful sight of such vast expanses of vacant terracing. The 7-cup matches included in the cost of an Arsenal season ticket appears to be the exception nowadays, as the majority of club's annual renewals cover few, or no cup games at all. With ITV squeezing every last drop of value out of their sole exclusive rights to a domestic competition, by spreading games across the entire weekend and offering as much live coverage as possible, I assume that in the current economic climate, many fans opted for an afternoon of armchair viewing.

It's downright tragic that on the one hand ITV are doing their utmost to hype up the flagging magic of a tournament that once formed the basis for every schoolboy fantasy, while seemingly oblivious to the negative impact of their tinkering on the way the FA Cup is perceived, due to the detrimental effect on the atmosphere of the ever diminishing attendances.

Despite half-empty stadia, you only had to witness the hungry way in which some of the less illustrious sides went about attempting to subdue supposedly more accomplished opposition, to appreciate that at some level the cup will always retain an intrinsic allure, amongst those professionals who've yet to be completely spoilt by obscene superstar salaries and who still strive to realise their dreams of a big Wembley day out.

Personally I'd be feeling more optimistic knowing the Gunners were fired up and supremely focused for a high-profile encounter against one of the European giants, rather than us going into a game against Porto as favourites and fretting that we might not produce the necessary intensity. Although there's hardly cause for over-confidence, after experiencing the sweet taste of victory against the Scousers for the first time in five outings.

I had some sympathy for this Asian lad who'd been flown all the way over from Bangalore, after winning a competition to find India's most ardent fan with a hysterical bedroom video. For 45-minutes he must've been wondering what all the fuss was about, as the forlorn mood of the past couple of weeks ensured that both in the stands and on the pitch, the atmosphere was as flat as a pancake. Fortunately for all concerned, the second half sparked a far more calorific contest, if only because it was far too bloomin' cold for both sides to stand around, waiting out a face-saving draw.

With the Gunners eventually taking the lead with 18 agonizing minutes left on the clock and with Chelsea, Man Utd, Spurs and Villa all in danger of dropping points, a chance to redeem our season in one foul swoop seemed far too good to be true, with plenty of time still for it all to go pear-shaped. As the terrace telegraph told of the scores elsewhere, making everyone aware of the magnitude of a potential mishap, the mounting tension became unbearable.

Right up until the final whistle I was expecting Gerrard to pull something out of the bag. It is perhaps a reflection of the lack of fight in Benitez' side, that they weren't able to take advantage of this palpable air of anxiety. Hanging on for dear life to a narrow home win against a lacklustre Liverpool might be no great shakes, but set in the context of recent bitter disappointments, it was an absolutely massive result, providing a timely boost to the moral in the Arsenal camp in advance of our trip to Portugal.

Such inconsistency (complacency?) amongst the top two offers a glimmer of hope of the Gunners having a say in the title shake-up. Although in truth we're left clinging to our continued Champions League progress to keep the flame of our campaign alive. Were the promise of a climactic finale in the Bernabeu to be extinguished, with nothing more tangible to play for than a top four finish, we Gooners will undoubtedly be left casting covetous glances at those fans who can continue to dream of "Wem-ber-lee!"

--
e-mail to: londonN5@gmail.com

11 comments:

Atishay said...

Frankly, whether he calls it EPL, BPL, PL, Premier League, Load of Tosh, or whatever it may be, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that he loves Arsenal, despite not having ever watched a game live. Gooners are Gooners, wherever they may be, so try not to categorize. Also, referring to him as a Slumdog Gooner, just because he's from India, is slightly off the mark, ain't it?

Bernard said...

Sincerely, no offence intended Atishay and sincere apologies if any taken.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if his Bangalore home is far more salubrious than the less than safe streets of Highbury nowadays (certainly not nearly so bloomin' freezing!!) and my glib use of the Slumdog reference was only taking advantage of current common parlance.

At the end of the day I posted his video to honour his long distance allegiance to the Arsenal, which I found extremely touching and am sad to think anyone should take my comments in any other way

TTFN
Bernard

Gunnerthroughthickandthin said...

Hey I'm an Arsenal fan from Bangalore!! Been a gooner for the better part of the last two decades..Gooners in Bangalore are as passionate about football and arsenal as anyone else around the world. Trust me there is a bigger fan base here than in many other places in the world. Well Bangalore is a pretty well of city and 90% of its citizens are SALUBRIOUS and are very comfortable. Referring to anything coming out of India as Slumdog is absolutely wrong as it was a fictional movie and was depicted very realistically. General maintenance of the cities here are not possible like in London or any other city in UK due to the population and the variety of people living here. The Slumdog generalisation is absolutely wrong and would offend many people from India.

I have lived in the UK for a few years and seen my Arsenal play football at the Emirates. Luckily they win every time I was at the stadium. Never once did I feel like I was from another country whilst in UK. Our lifestyle in Bangalore or anywhere in India is more conservative in nature compared to other cities in the world and the party, pub and the clubbing culture hasn't caught up with us here. We are more simple in our fashion sense and we don't care much about it either. Therefore alluding to us as slumdogs generally is pretty offensive.

The bloke who won the trip to the Emirates made that video only because of his love for Arsenal. I'm pretty sure of all the slag he'll get from certain quarters of the English fan base only because he isn't "English". I've read a couple of really racist articles and comments on the net about this. He made the video knowing fully well that he'll face all that shit. All the Gooners should be proud of seeing such a passionate fan outside of the English isles instead of making derogatory comments about the event! We appreciate Arsenal and the gorgeous football they play as much as anyone else anywhere on Earth!

Not saying your article is bad, quite the contrary. But the generalisation is not appreciated!!

Bernard said...

Blimey it's lucky I didn't use the offending terminology in the title, as I considered at one point :-)

As already said, heartfelt apologies to anyone who might take offence. As more Heinz heritage (52 varieties) than WASP myself, it would be more than a little hypocritical of me to intentionally cast racial aspersions and I would ask that my slumdog reference be taken with the same jocular pinch of salt that it was intended.

With me being of jewish origin, my Arsenal experience regularly involves hearing thousands of Gooners chanting in terms deemed racist and derogatory in reference to our North London neighbours. While by no means attempting to endorse the use of offensive racist expressions, if I was to believe this terrace banter to be expressly anti-semitic and to take personal umbrage, I would've long since stopped going to games!

So while not trying to excuse my use of an offensive expression, I might suggest that unless unintentionally racist epithets are to be treated like water off a duck's back, no matter how hard core your support, one wouldn't last long on the terraces in this country!

I've even had my Irish missus give me a hard time for singing "where's your caravan?" at Damien Duff when he was playing for Chelsea some years back.

This chant wasn't by any means a suggestion that all the Irish are tinkers who live mobile homes and by the same token my use of the movie title in my piece was by no means intended to cast any aspersions about this Banaglore Gooner's personal circumstances. In fact judging by the bedroom in the video, it would appear patently obvious that these are anything but the ones portrayed in the fictitious movie tale.

Peace & Love
Bernard

Anonymous said...

Dude, Gunner fan from India (Mumbai)
Slumdog gunner does feel offending to me. Massive gunner myself, this angle among some (may be 2-3) does upset me a little bit.

Charles Paul

nutcracker said...

Bernard,

I'm from Bangalore as well and trust me when I say this.. no offence taken. I think people, not just in India, but in general are way too sensitive about these things. Like you said, it's just current common parlance. I regularly read your blog and find it to be one of the best reads on the net. Please keep up the great work and don't let a few detractors get you down.

Gautham Achar said...

Bernard,

Die hard Gooner from Chennai, India. Not very far away from Bangalore. Trust me when i say this man, there are a lot of Gooners, Mancs, Kopites, Blues in India than you people think there are. Highly passionate ones, who follow the game live on TV every weekend.

If you have got an orkut account, just check out the biggest Arsenal community there is and you will find out for yourself :)

Cheers

Atishay said...

Bernard,

Glad you took my comment with a lot of dignity and appreciated my thoughts. Not that I take a lot of offence for the 'Slumdog Gooner' comment, but it's better people don't use it, lest people get hurt. Trust me, you'll be surprised to see the amount of support Arsenal have in India. It's got the second largest fanbase after ManUre.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Slumdog assholes -- let the man write his article in peace! Clearly it was all joking around, with no offense intended! Bugger off you sensitive fops! This is the internet!

I Hate Dunphy said...

is jesus navas your love child?

Anonymous said...

for fuck sake,whats the story?