By Charles Belle

If the Emirates is the Citadel of the Gooner faithful, pubs across America are the fortresses on the frontier. And at 6AM in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, Gooners began gathering for an 8AM kick-off.

Although far from London, the Arsenal American brigade is ever present.

Maggie McGarry’s Irish Pub is the official meeting place of Arsenal America's San Francisco Branch -- AKA the Bay Area Gooners. One glance says it all: Arsenal kits pack the bar; the Bay Area Gooners flag rises above the crowd, hung proudly before every game; and pictures of the Bay Area Gooners plaster the back wall.

This is our home, this is our time. Although it might be early on this Sunday morning, the tap is open, Arsenal chants rise and fall and all things Arsenal are being discussed.

 

Bay Area Gooners - Mongolia

Fans from Mongolia joined the crowd at Maggie McGarry's

Thanks to the Internet, visiting fans find us on the Arsenal America website. Our fellow Gooners peer into the pub with wide eyes and smiles on their faces, and transform from tourists to long-lost cousins with a single sip from a pint glass.

This time we inducted a couple from London and another from Mongolia -- yes, MONGOLIA! Both, of course, in their Arsenal shirts.

But if making new friends was easy, the game was a bit more challenging. After a first half stalemate, a 10-man Liverpool squad left the pub buzzing with possibility. Victory seemed to be assured. But nothing joins a nation together as much as shared pain -- and joy.

Sunday’s game was no different. The early goal to start the second half tested our fears, although not our belief. The red card to Koscielny brought howls of pain. And with time ticking down, we willed the team forward, chanting in a bar over 5,000 miles away from the ruckus in Anfield.

Then, a 90th minute goal -- Arsenal back from the brink!

Arsenal chants throbbed throughout the bar, followed by the tongue-in-cheek “Rob Green-Rob Green-Rob Green” jibes at Reina. Yes, English Gooners too! But all of us in one voice. All of us on our feet, on our chairs with hands in the air and voices hoarse.

Sunday wasn’t just the first match of the season; it was the return of The Arsenal to our lives. Maybe it wasn’t pretty, but the joy of Arsenal’s return and the rise of the Gooner community around the world is a strength that will never die.

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

 

Charles Belle is a rabid Gooner and staunch supporter of the U.S. Men's National Team.  A future lawyer, he makes his case for Arsenal regularly on his Goons of Anarchy blog.

Copyright 2014 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 19 Aug 2010