ARSENAL, RAOUL

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Arsenal. Raoul. 11th St / Ave A, New York City, 2014

Why Arsenal? I asked.

“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since just before my 17th birthday. My high school soccer team went to England for a pre-season and our coach got us tickets to a game while we were in London. I don’t know how he chose Arsenal, but I’m pretty sure that it was the opening game of the season at Highbury. This was before the Premier League, but Arsenal were still in the top flight. I don’t recall the game very well, except for being impressed by David Rocastle. Mainly what I remember was standing on the crumbling terraces behind the goal and understanding why there were stadium safety issues. It was terrifying, especially squeezing out of the too-small-for-Americans turnstiles onto a street full of mounted policemen in riot gear, but also exhilarating.

I’m pretty sure that it was the first game of the season, which I think is also mentioned in Fever Pitch, because the next home game that year was a 6-0 and I definitely would have remembered 6 goals. I had to look up this up, as well as Arsenal’s opponent that day; the internet tells me it was Liverpool and that they won 2-1. I guess If I had chosen my team based on performance I would be a Liverpool fan. 

This is my second Arsenal jersey and my favorite because it still has the old, less corporate badge. I think it’s the 2001 kit. I bought my first one after that game at Highbury. It was a red Adidas shirt with one of those horrible 1980s patterns of triangles. It was too small when I bought it, but I wish I still had it to give to my kids. Strange that this was almost 27 years ago. My relationship with Arsenal Football club is one of the longest I’ve had.”
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The moment Gerrard scores his second goal, 11th St Bar, NYC
It was a fine Sunday in New York City. A couple of early morning beers with Rowan, a poet, and Raoul, a history teacher, as we watched Liverpool beating West Ham at the 11th Street Bar. Once we stepped outside Raoul took off his sweater to reveal his Arsenal colours. If those three points turn out to be crucial for LFC to win the long awaited title, I’ll remember, forever, the Sunday when poetry and history met.
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