Meet the fans: Houston
Nick Irons should know. He hails from Brixton and has been an Arsenal fan for more than 60 years. Along with Meghan Murphy, he founded the local branch of Arsenal America - officially known as RichArse - at the start of the 2011/12 season.
Irons got everything going by keeping a list of names so Arsenal fans could keep in touch and get together to watch matches at the pub. After Murphy started helping out, the list grew form about a dozen names to more than 50. Now they get more and more people every match day.
As Murphy describes it, the Richmond Arms “is like a big, red and white (or yellow and blue) perfectly functioning dysfunctional family get-together. It’s a comfortable atmosphere and for 90 minutes we all are one big, nervous, yelling, cheering, laughing, nail-biting group of people bonded by our love for the Gunners.”
It shouldn’t really come as any surprise that Houston has a solid following for Premier League football. It’s the fourth-largest city in the USA and has a huge ex-pat community. And the Houston Dynamo have been successful on and off the pitch.
Granted, the Houston sports scene still mainly revolves around the Rockets, Astros and Texans, and Gooner Richard Willis describes the sport as still having an “underground following.”
And the early kick-offs can pose a problem for the more casual fan. “As the 7.00 a.m. turnouts are concerned, you get a somewhat quizzical response from non-soccer folks.” Irons said. “But it is tempered somewhat by, ‘You mean you get a beer and breakfast there?’
“Of course we Gooners only go for the game,” he quipped.
But there are more than enough fans of Premier League clubs to go around in Houston. A Gooner named Matt described the early morning scene at the Richmond Arms as “Intense.”
“There are supporters of pretty much every club you can imagine, even the smaller fish and we have no shortage of supporters from the old country,” he said. “The building sometimes feels like it might fall down during some of the large Champions League matches!”
And as most devoted Arsenal fans can agree, once you start going to the local pub to watch matches with fellow Gooners, it becomes part of your lifestyle.
“Most people think I’m crazy to voluntarily wake up early on a Saturday or Sunday to go watch a game being played in another country at a pub when I could just as well watch the game on TV while still staying in bed,” Murphy said.
“Honestly, though, going to the pub for an Arsenal match is something I look forward to every week.”
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