The capital city of Virginia has a big Arsenal presence.
It's the hometown of former Arsenal player and current North American scout Danny Karbassiyoon and local youth club Richmond Strikers is part of the Arsenal Training Program. So it should come as no surprise that the city is also home to a growing group of loyal Arsenal supporters who take the match day experience very seriously.
"If you find yourself in Richmond, VA on an Arsenal match day please join at Gus' Bar & Grill for a bit of banter, a few bevvies and some Arsenal songs. We assure you, you'll have a good time," says group founder Tom Rosenhammer. "There might be more fans of those other American owned English football clubs in our fair city, but none of them out sing the Richmond Gooners."
Year established: August, 2011
Number of active members: "We have 55 members in the group. For big games about 25 of us get together at Gus', but for the average match it’s about ten."
The group's beginnings: "When I moved into my Fan District home in 2011, I noticed that one of my neighbors flew an Arsenal flag from his house. Then another Gooner moved in with his girlfriend on the same street and I decided that if three Gooners live on my street there must be many more in this town who want to watch games together. From there one friend would tell three friends and we've grown by word of mouth, social media and by establishing a presence at our pub."
Arsenal in Virginia: "Amongst all the Premier League clubs we’re one of the most popular, especially since an ex-Arsenal player lives here and one of the local youth academies has a connection to Arsenal FC.
Premier League football has definitely caught on, particularly because of Saturday morning matches that are broadcast on TV here now. I can remember in 2005 only a few people would turn up at a sports bar to watch the FA Cup final or the Champions League final and now you’ve got to get there an hour before kick off for a standing room spot, so there’s been a massive shift in favor of English football.
"For me the tipping point was realized after our 8-2 drubbing in August of 2011. After the match ended, it seems like everywhere I went that day, people were giving me stick for the result. It wasn't the nicest feeling to have to continually talk about the loss that day, but the positive was that people knew about the match, people knew who Arsenal was and that wouldn't have happened five years earlier."
Where our members hail from: "It’s 95 percent locals, after that we’ve got one or two ex-pats and we’ll have a few from a few hours away in the Baltimore & Washington, DC area that will pop in. Luckily, Gus’ is listed on Arsenal.com as the supporter’s pub in Richmond, so Gooners worldwide will be able to find a home away from home. "
Group's favorite Arsenal moments: "Culling a page from Fever Pitch, Johey has “smoked in” two goals. He’ll head outside to have a cigarette with the strict intention of somehow procuring a goal by smoking and luckily against Swansea City and that club from the N17 it’s worked out for us. Beyond that, every matchday is a joy because most American sports fans that see our group in our pub still don’t know what to make of us. We’ve got red and white scarves on and while we’re singing, our chants aren’t in the standard “de-fense *clap* *clap*” tempo that they’re used to, so there is a puzzled element of “I don’t know what they’re doing but it looks fun” going on. We’re slowly aiming to convert those doubters to Arsenal fans at some point, maybe after we spot them a pint or two.
"We had a viewing party that we combined with the local D.C. United supporter’s group. It was a decent turnout and thanks to that event, many of our boys are headed to Washington, D.C. in April to see King Henry play. When we announced our presence on Twitter, there were loose plans to have a meet-up and a kickabout with the Triangle Gooners and Queen City Gooners and we’d still like to see that happen.
"The ultimate goal is for a portion of us to head to the Emirates and see a game together, that would be terrific."Copyright 2013 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 2 Apr 2013