We now head down to sunny Florida to meet a group of Arsenal supporters who, despite meeting for years, only recently became 'official.' With the backing of Arsenal America, the group is being contacted weekly by traveling fans and even more Arsenal supporters from around the Tampa Bay Area. As branch manager Jeff Schulz says:
“It is great to go catch some games and know that you will have someone there to cheer and enjoy the Gunners with.”
Group Name: Gulf Coast Gooners
Location: Tampa Bay, Florida
Year established: "Officially 2010 – although we've been meeting for years."
Number of active members: "We have 60+ members and normally around 20 make it it to the games."
Where we watch matches: MacDinton's Irish Pub 405 South Howard Avenue Tampa, Florida 33606
Normal match start time: "It's usually either 10:00am or 12:30pm (ET) on Saturdays,but sometimes as early as 7:45am for major matches."
Where our members hail from: "We have members from, among other places, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, London, Leeds, Canada, Iowa, New Jersey, Texas and, of course, Florida."
Group’s favorite Arsenal moment: "Everyday the Gunners are playing...but the 6-1 drubbing of Everton at Goodison Park showed that we were legitimate contenders for the title. Anytime we beat the Scousers or The Red Devils since they have large supporter groups as well."
Group's favorite players: "Ever - Bergkamp because he could do things that others dream about. But, Henry, Vieira and Ljungberg were hard to rule out. Now - It would be Cesc or RVP. I think Nasri could be special and I see him on the pitch so I will go with him."
Why we are Gooners: "Grace of God! We all have different stories, some from birth, some recently. But, I hope our membership swells and the new people say things like, 'These other guys were a lot of fun and the team they supported were exciting to watch. And the more I learned about them, the more awesome it was.'"
How big football is here: "The game is pretty strong in Tampa. We seem to be a favorite of the USSF as they hold lots of matches in town. We are hosting an upcoming Gold Cup match and the official supporters' pregame is at MacDintons so it will be hopping. Last year was the reformation of the Tampa Bay Rowdies and those games have solid figures. It wouldn't surprise me if Tampa gets another run at the MLS. The issue with Tampa though is that there is so much to do and it is so dang hot in the summer, you have to have a winner or people just won't go. The Rays have been great, but the stadium is often well under half-full."
Why Arsenal should be 'America's team': "We play the game the right way. We run the club the right way. We are the best and America is the best."9 Jun 2011