Fatima al Shamsi got so carried away with her essay on Arsenal worship that we thought it might be better to split her preview of Saturday’s game at the Emirates into two. Here are her answers to our questions and apologies in advance for failing to indoctrinate her sufficiently to get a prediction of a shock Sunderland victory…
Barcelona, Brazil, Arsenal…….why, in each case, and how important are Arsenal in relation to the others?
The Brazilian national team was my first real exposure to football. This is because my earliest childhood as well as my earliest football memories are from Brazil. Without really remember much of the 94 World Cup I still remember the passion that ran throughout the country my last summer there. Just like the rest of the world I had bought into the fact that Brazil were the best team in the world. Of course since then I have a strong love-hate relationship with the team. Whereas individual players play beautifully in their respective leagues, it’s been a while since the Brazilian squad has actually played at convincingly.
I was eight when I made my first steps into the world of club football. I remember sitting with my dad during one of his ritual weekend matches and for the first time ever I took a genuine interest in following what was happening on the big screen. While I watched my dad angrily yell at Manchester United, I instinctively took it that the opposing team were the ‘good guys’ and that was my first introduction to Arsenal. And ever since then I’ve been hooked (thank God the opposing team weren’t Blackburn, the Spurs or Chelsea …eugh). I just remember watching Bergkamp and Anelka and thinking they were absolutely amazing.
Since my dad used the weekends to unwind and watch loads of football then I was also exposed to the Italian and Spanish leagues. Although I still occasionally watch a Series A game I only truly follow La Liga and the Premiership. And as far as my love of Barcelona, it was simple, the household was split between Real Madrid fans (my mum and brother) and Barcelona (my dad and another brother)…I chose wisely. Ever since then its been quite a ride with the Catalans- this season being absolutely sensational.
Normally I can keep my Arsenal/Barca support separate but when they met for the Champions League finals (which I had predicted and was repeatedly dismissed for) in 06, I was clad in my maroon Thierry Henry jersey.
I am first and foremost a Gooner and will always be.
The Gunners: proper club or merely a brand?
Is that even an appropriate question? We are definitely a proper club, while we don’t have the same financial problems as some teams, we’re definitely not a brand in the way that some clubs- Real Madrid for example which seems to me to be more of a fashion accessory than a football club. We’ve also not had a miraculous transformation in the form of foreign money which led to the acquisition of pre-packaged star players. If anything, our problem is how we seem to be the grooming ground for all these big star players. We’re such a young team and I think that’s a strength as well as a weakness because we have to be patient to see the full potential that most of our players have.
Explain what has gone wrong (relatively speaking). What did you expect at the start of the season?
Of course, after a summer of recovery, I start the season optimistically expecting brilliance. The problem this season is experiencing the full reality of having such a young team, as well as witnessing the void created by the departure of Hleb and Flamini and then made worse by our string of injuries.
While last season was somewhat of a disappointment as well, we could find comfort in knowing that we still consistently played beautiful football. But this season, whilst sparks of it come back every now and then we haven’t been playing as beautifully as we used to. When this season began my biggest worry was, our non-existent midfield, a problem exacerbated by Fabregas’s injury. But now that we have Arshavin he could hopefully solve our current central and right midfield problems (especially if he plays with the same skill and versatility as he did during the Euros).
While I was initially hoping that we could work miracles in the Champions League, currently my only desire is for us to get back to the top four.
Is it time for Arsene to go?
No its never time for Arsene to go, he’s magic (unless he’s leaving to make way for me!). I think the problem people have with Arsene is that his plans are too long term and recently our patience as supporters has run thin; we’d like to see instantaneous results. But I have faith in him.
Tell me what you think – honestly – about Sunderland
Honestly I haven’t seen enough Sunderland games to have a proper opinion. The little I did watch over the summer and during the start of the 08/09 season actually made me realise that they weren’t as horrible as I had assumed them to be. The game against Arsenal in October was actually a really good one and I was impressed by Sunderland’s performance against Liverpool in August, where I believe that they really didn’t deserve to lose.
I know you read More 24 Hour SAFC People, the book from A Love Supreme. Which were the most memorable fans’ stories for you?
Niall Quinn’s Disco pants, Club vs Country (because it’s a perpetual question I get as well as a topic I have to explain to Americans – “wait, now Beckham can play for the US national team since he’s moved L.A. right?”) and one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever read was Fisher’s “What I did last Summer”.
It just reminded me of how my friends think my priorities are off whenever football is involved in the equation and when my mother tried to establish a ban on football in the household when she decided the my weekend moods were too dominated by results, ( a ban that was instantaneously dismissed by me and my father as soon as she proclaimed it).
It also expressed memorably how I’ve felt whenever I was disappointed with Arsenal (and have made the proclamation that I’d ‘quit football’ many times too, yet I’d never dare to actually try it).
Who would you love to see in an Arsenal shirt, and who should be booted out of the Emirates?
David Villa. He’s one of my favorite players and although I’ve heard otherwise and know people who don’t agree that his style of play would be suitable, I think he would be great in the Emirates. There’s currently no one I would like to see booted out at this moment, I used to dislike Sagna, but I’ve recently become indifferent to him (it might be the questionable hairstyle…I don’t know).
Who will win the Premiership, La Liga and Serie A? And who will go down from the Premier League?
Liverpool (anything to keep Chelsea and ManU away from the top spot).
Barcelona!!! (led by the likes of Messi and Eto)
Internazionale. (although my preferences lay with AC Milan, can anyone doubt Mourinho?)
West Brom or Blackburn.
How do you follow football in New York, and which league/country’s football takes precedence for you?
Since I’ve moved to university, and no longer have the luxury of cable and satellite that my dad had installed in our apartment, I have resorted to the wonders of the internet and live streaming. Thus, most of the time, I watch my premiership games early morning in my room on my laptop (and when I saw early I mean as early as 7.45am due to time difference). Which is why I have become very selective watching only Arsenal and Barcelona games regularly. Liga games are however much more convenient timewise because the Spaniards play late night, so the games tend to occur between 2-4pm so when I have the time, there is also a great pub downtown that is by far the best spot to watch football. They show all leagues always live and they’re one of few pubs where football is the priority sport as opposed to baseball, basketball, American football etc…
The atmosphere is also unbeatable. Proper football hooligans!
Premiership and La Liga, take precedence for me. I also do my best to catch Champions league games but the tend to occur mid week during class (but I’ve been known to stream a game on my laptop, back row of a lecture hall).
Will America ever properly embrace top-level football?
Haha, I don’t think they have the attention span for it. I honestly believe that there’s some odd corporate conspiracy that cant stand the thought of 45 minutes of straight of play without product bombardment.
What do you think of the club v country question I always pose in this series, especially the fact that nine times out of 10, the supporters reply “club”?
Club!!! Although I get just as upset/excited about results during the World Cup and other international games as I would during the regular season I think this is more due to the lack of league football during the summers.
Who will win our game? What will be the score? Will you be able to watch it?
GUNNERS. 2-1 (I’m being generous with that 1).
Yes as long as my laptop is working, it’s will be on at 10am which is not as horrible as the occasional 7.45am Saturday morning Arsenal fixture.