The FA Cup has been packed neatly in bubble wrap. The players have been corralled using the charms of various Apple devices and herded on to waiting jet liners. Arseblog has packed a suitcase full of books and boarded a jet. The artists from We All Follow The Arsenal are on the last leg of their journey. And countless others are boarding planes, trains, and automobiles in order to arrive in New York City in time for the festivities. If 14th Street is set to be red tomorrow, it has already begun to turn pink.
“Soccer is still far enough below the radar in the United States for Robbie Keane to lead a relatively normal life in his adopted city of Los Angeles” read the hilarious lede from a BBC article about how football has taken off in the USA. It’s a quote meant as a counter point to the argument in their article. As if to say “maybe football has grown significantly more popular in recent years but Robbie Keane still isn’t swarmed for signatures when he goes out.” As if Robbie Keane would even be recognized as a professional footballer anywhere in the world.
But the facts belie their argument. The World Cup broke records for television viewership. And we don’t just watch on TV, this isn’t Italy. The Sounders sold 67,000+ tickets for their first game after the World Cup. And while Seattle may be a bit unusual, in that we have higher attendance here than all but the most popular professional soccer clubs in Europe, it still shows the power of football in the USA. We may be one soccer mad corner of the USA but you can believe me when I tell you that I have been to many places in this country and seen many crowded faces watching games.
There may be new faces in the crowds but for many American Arsenal fans we have been waiting for this moment for too long. We have had to sit back and watch the happy faces of our rival fans as Chelsea and Man U make a seeming annual pilgrimage to the USA. I even went to one of the very first exhibition games here, Celtic v. Man U in 2003. There was signing, cheering, and even some sectarian violence among the 67,000 fans who were in the stands that day.
I kind of felt dirty watching that Man U game that summer. I felt like I was giving the arch enemy my money. I have since eschewed attending any other team’s games in the USA. For example, Tottenham are coming to Seattle and I can’t imagine a reason why I would attend that, except as a Sounders fan, rooting for the green.
Despite the occasional 60,000 seat sell out, the truth is that football has been slow to take off in the USA. In 2003 we still watched most games on one of two channels, grubby little backwater channels like Setanta which you could only get with an expensive satellite package. And Setanta was a god-send. Prior to that we watched match of the day style clips, occasional live matches, and sometimes even had to pay-per-view big games. Moreover, in 2003 there was no YouTube and there were no pirate streams. We got what the lords of television gave us and were thankful for it.
And fast forward to today. I can watch every game in the Premier League, most of the FA Cup matches, almost all of the League Cup matches, and any Champions League match on my television, on my computer, or on my tablet. Not only that but ESPN has a site dedicated to our sport and data outlets like WhoScored, Squawka, and the 442 app, feed us information about every aspect of the game at near instant speed. And as the coverage has grown, we have grown.
But over the last few years, Arsenal fans have also grown restless. Begging for Arsenal to come here, to our country, to let us show Arsenal how much we love her.
And this weekend we finally have the chance. For many fans, this will be the one and only time in our life that we will be able to see Arsenal play live. To see Arsenal play against the living statue,Thierry Henry.
And so we are gathering.