BY ASYIKIN YUSOFF / @asyiAFC
When Arsenal announced the Nike 125 project in the build-up to last December’s anniversary celebrations, I decided to just go for it. My challenge was to put into words what Arsenal meant to me with the prospect of my entry being included on the club’s official Facebook page.
When I received an email informing me that my story had been approved, I was elated; it seemed surreal, to be picked out of thousands of entries. Finally I could share with others how this wonderful football club of ours influences me.
Somehow though, in the joy of the moment, I managed to overlook the email from Arsenal’s Senior Media Officer revealing that not only would my story be visible through official channels online, but that it had been selected to be installed outside the Emirates Stadium on a stone bench. Even when the 125th anniversary match against Everton came round, I still had no idea about the existence of this special accolade.
That was until a certain friend of mine, who was on holiday with her family of Manchester United supporters, made a trip to the Emirates. I’ll never forget the moment she revealed she’d seen my name outside our magnificent home in front of Thierry Henry’s new statue capturing his celebration after that goal against Spurs.
I know there is a regular debate about whether foreign fans, and supporters who don’t make it to games, are as ‘good’ as those who are regulars. Personally I think it’s a ridiculous argument. Yes, maybe those who’ve travelled England and Europe to watch the team share an experience that us who are further afield don’t get to taste, but to me it doesn’t matter who we are, or where we come from – as long as we all call Arsenal Football Club our own, we’re all the same in my eyes.
I’ve never been to Highbury or the Emirates and I’ve never experienced the matchday experience except from the comfort of my own living room in Singapore. I’ve never walked down Avenell Road towards Highbury, or down the Seven Sisters Road to the Emirates. I didn’t even get to watch Arsenal when they visited Malaysia, nor for a number of reasons will I get the chance to see them when they come to the region again at the end of the current campaign.
Despite all that, I’ve got something of which I can be truly proud. My heart has been set in stone at Arsenal's home - quite literally. And I'm certain that when I do visit the Emirates one day, I'll be able to look at the stone bench bursting with pride. The Arsenal is more than just a football club to me, it’s a way of life and a reason to keep my head held up high.
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