Nearly three months ago, Peter Anderson began an epic journey around the globe. Starting in London, the Gooner on the Road visited the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark and Sweden before crossing the Atlantic for the next leg of his tour.
Anderson spent two months traveling around the United States making friends, collecting stories and spreading a lot of goodwill. His last stop in North America was in Santa Ana, California where he watched Arsenal take on Manchester United with the OC Gooners at their home pub.
I caught up with Peter Anderson shortly before he left the USA for the next leg of his tour.
How are supporters in the USA and Canada are different from supporters in the UK?
"The main difference is that they generally have not been supporting Arsenal as long as the people back home. It becomes pretty obvious when I ask my hosts the question 'Can you choose between the Emirates or Highbury?' The lot of them say that they never got the chance to go to Highbury because generally the supportership here is much younger.
"But they are just as passionate, just as emotional when things go right or things go wrong."
The fans in North America are just as passionate, just as emotional when things go right or things go wrong.
You lived in Montreal a few years ago. Have you noticed a change in the support over here since then?
"I have noticed a difference in the fan base over here since then. I think it is because of better television coverage. Supporters have been able to watch more games throughout the season.
"The coverage and analysis by NBC this year has improved over the previous providers and has helped to educate the supporters and let them know more about the game. There has also been more of an effort to recruit more supporters and get people who don’t support a team to start supporting one.
How does support for Arsenal in North America stack up against other Premier League clubs?
"I haven't really seen that many Manchester United fans during my travels over here and I think if you do come across United fans, half of them don't know who half of the players are on the team. To put it another way, I don’t think you could do what I'm doing right now as a United fan.
"There are a lot of Liverpool fans. Liverpool fans get everywhere and I have a lot of respect for Liverpool just based on their organic growth – the same way that we've done it."
Have you been surprised at all by the level of support for Arsenal in the USA?
"On this particular trip, my expectations have been pretty high, but even those high expectations have been exceeded when I've visited places like Austin, Kansas City… even Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina was really impressive. They are quite a new supporters club but they have great camaraderie, they have a great little podcast going, they’ve done a great job with that.
"I was in Austin for ten days for Napoli as well as the international break. The guys there were fantastic – I love Austin. It's got a lot going on. A great city, great food, culture, and the supporters club has grown immensely as well. They are really passionate about making sure that supporters club takes off.
"But the biggest surprise I had was a couple of years back when I went to the Blind Pig in New York City for the first time. Before I had gone there I didn’t know that there was a big supporter base in the US as a whole – or even outside of the UK for that matter. I was a bit ignorant of that fact. The first time I stepped foot into the Blind Pig, it was like home away from home."
I am really looking forward to southeast Asia, but I am equally terrified and excited.
Which match has been the most memorable for you so far this season?
"Of the matches I've seen so far, the one I would love to go back and re-live was Napoli. It’s just a combination of the people that were there and the scenario that we were in. We played so unbelievably well.
"I also had a great time in Portland. We beat Liverpool 2-0 and played some fantastic football. It was a great atmosphere.
"But I can’t talk about the good times without mentioning the Blind Pig. That place still leads the way and leads by example. It's a bit unfair really because it’s in the melting pot of New York City where you've got millions of people and you are always going to have loads of Arsenal fans.
What is the next stop after you leave the USA?
"After I leave the states I am headed to Australia – via Fiji. There is not game while I am in Fiji, it’s the international break, but I'm stopping off there for my birthday! After that I am really looking forward to southeast Asia, but I am equally terrified and excited."
Do you have a message for the Arsenal supporters in North America?
"The biggest message I can give to Arsenal fans in North America is thanks to everyone who has gone out of their way to raise funds and raise awareness. Not just awareness for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, but raising awareness for my trip as a whole. This is a marathon not a sprint. Most of us in England have this kind of preconception of America as a really warm county where people really want to give back.
"Another message is you need to start singing more!"
Peter Anderson is the Gooner on the Road. After his mother passed away from breast cancer in February, he decided to embark on a journey. He is now travelling the world and backpacking, four different continents for the entire football season and watching every Arsenal game whilst raising money for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.
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