A Brisbanian-cum-Berliner like myself, friend of my older brother and now good friend of mine, she has well and truly engrossed herself in the world of Arsenal over the past six months.
Amanda has watched almost every Arsenal game this season with me, read this blog religiously and even — bless her little heart — found the time and compulsion to knit me a glorious red and white Arsenal scarf, just to show her support.
Amanda has been a wonderful person to watch Arsenal with this season. She celebrates the good times with beer and excited conversation, is quick to move on from the bad and sincerely appreciates the efforts of the players and the manager, rather than just focusing on the results.
She loves Nicklas Bendtner because he is a character. She loves Wojciech Szczesny because his presence in goals feels like a relaxing back massage. She loves Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere and Robin van Persie because they never, ever, ever give up.
Amanda never speaks about things she doesn’t know but is strong enough to make her own observations and judgments. She never makes the lazy “we need to shoot more” sort of statements but often pitches in with things like “why doesn’t the midfield move the ball on a little quicker?” or “van Persie hasn’t been very involved in this game”.
As you can imagine, the last month and a half has been particularly difficult for Amanda as an Arsenal supporter. For the first time in her admittedly short supporters career, things have been going extremely badly. From everything going swimmingly she has seen us lose the Carling Cup in the most gut-wrenching way imaginable, watched a referee steal away our chances of a huge Champions League upset and seen our title challenge slowly, but surely crumble.
As a result her opinion of football as the most romantic of sports — a perspective obtained via the colour and drama of the World Cup and half a season of promising, exciting football from the Arsenal team she has adopted — is being challenged.
After watching the Liverpool game together at the usual pub, I wanted to go home and bury my head under my pillow.
But Amanda had other ideas.
“I can’t go home after that. It’s too frustrating. I need a beer and some time to calm down.”
So we grabbed two beers from a local kiosk, and plonked ourselves down on a couple of chairs in the street in the sunshine, no more than fifty metres from the pub. There we began to talk about all things Arsenal.
I talked about how only Arsenal could throw away a game from a position like that. She talked about how she much preferred calm defensive players like Djourou and Sagna to Eboué and Clichy. I talked about how concerned I was that supporters would get on Wenger’s back for something he had no control over. She talked about how Cesc plays better with a beard. I talked about how good Robin van Persie’s penalty was under the circumstances.
Then it dawned on me: isn’t this type of conversation, this type of interaction, what being a football supporter is all about?
I know that people love winning. I also know that there are people that love winning above all else, who value the acquisition of silverware as the point of football. But as I have said time and time and time again, I am not one of those people.
For me football, and supporting a football team, is a reflection on life itself. Both have ups and downs. Both contain things you can be controlled and things that cannot. There is excitement, there is disappointment, there is frustration.
But at the end of the day it is about taking on board the range of emotions that come with supporting a football team and enjoying the ride.
This season, Amanda has been a great reminder of the wonderful things that come along with supporting football and in particular, that team we call our own. Knitting someone a scarf has nothing to do with winning, it has to do with sharing an experience and making the time spent watching football in the pub or the stadium just that little bit more special.
She even had the brilliance to finish our de-stressing conversation with the following concluding statement:
“Losing the way we have this season is going to make winning so good. I’m going to party so hard when these guys finally win!”
Amanda might only have been supporting Arsenal for less than a season but she is as genuine a supporter as I have ever met.
On a weekend where a draw felt like a loss, she made it feel like a win.
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