"Having a Gooner as the owner of the pub definitely has its benefits."
Jeff Ferrier, one of the managers of the PDX Gooners says the clearest of those benefits is "Arsenal fans getting first dibs on the bigger HD projector screen."
The PDX Gooners are quite fortunate. While it is not uncommon for supporters groups in North America to change pubs on an almost yearly basis, consistency has been key in Portland. Beulahland, situated on the east side of the Willamette River, has been red and white for years.
Meet the fans: Portland
Pub owner Jimmi Langen has seen to that.
From the unspoken rule that Arsenal supporters get the side of the pub with the big screen, to the wall covered with Arsenal memorabilia brought back from London by some of the regulars, Beulahland is an unapologetic Gooner bar. And you will quickly notice that when Langen is not taking care of customers or making sure that the sound levels are perfect, he's sitting with the rest of the group watching the game – and throwing out a witty comment or two.
Beulahland developed a reputation as one of the best places to watch soccer in the city years before the Portland Timbers joined Major League Soccer. And that's a big deal. As Ferrier says, "The amount of passion and knowledge in this town for soccer is amazing."
By US standards, Portland – known as "Soccer City USA" in many circles – has a rich soccer history. The Timbers' roots go back to the old NASL days, and the University of Portland is one of the top collegiate soccer programs in the country. The number of people wearing jackets, shirts, hats and scarves featuring the Timbers logo is astounding - as are the number of bars and pubs which proudly advertise that they are a place to watch every Timbers game.
But Langen's place stands out. "Beulahland is a great place to watch," says Ferrier. "The atmosphere is great; it can go from relaxed to angry or excited very quickly."
And every Arsenal fan will tell you something else: Beulahland isn’t just a place to watch a game. It's a warm, inviting, comfortable community; from the owner and staff right down to the first-timer who wanders in.
Jeff Scherrer, a recent transplant to Portland, recalls his first visit to Beulahland. "I had just moved to Portland a week before and had read about the pub online. I arrived a little bit early and after waiting with 10 or 15 others outside for about 10 minutes, a waitress opened the door and said, 'Alright nerds, come on in.' I knew I had found my Portland Arsenal home."
And so have a lot of other people. A few years ago, the usual turnout for Arsenal matches was around a dozen or so. Now you have to squeeze in if you don’t show up early. "Over the last couple of years we have developed a steady crowd of regulars who come to most matches," says Ferrier. "And everyone gets along really well; from the long timers and locals to the increasing amount of visiting Gooners we keep meeting every season. It's been great to watch the group evolve."
"There is a core group that comes to almost every match. And we always look for each other to share insights while waiting for the match to begin," says Tamia Deary. "But I once shared a table with a gentleman visiting from London who was quite surprised to find so many enthusiastic fans on this side of the pond. And he absolutely could not wrap his head around the fact that we get up so early."
The early kick-offs: The inevitable problem with being an Arsenal supporter on the West Coast. But as they do in most western cities in the USA and Canada, fans in Portland make the best of it.
"I still get more than a few funny looks when I mention getting up as early as 5am to watch matches," says Dave Sanna. "But in all honesty, knowing that you're watching your team while most people are still sleeping just adds to the camaraderie of the group.
"It's just amazing to be able to share the joy, frustration, relief, and pride that being a fan brings with others that are as invested as you are."Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source