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#MyArsenalLoveStory: How I Became An Arsenal Fan - Emma Nwachukwu (@EmmaNwachukwu_ )

My love for football was passed on to me very early by my late father.

He would tell tales of football in the 70’s. Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Fausto Rossi, Mario Kempes, Gerd Muller were some of his favourite players.

Off course there was the Pele vs Maradona controversy and my father would give compelling reasons why the late Diego Armando was not to be compared with anyone.

My Dad was an unrepentant advocate of exciting football, so he never really liked British teams as their football was more about long direct or what you call route one football.

My father made me love South American teams and the Dutch teams in Europe and that shaped my football ideas till date.

So that was how my romance with football started, but, because we were poor and because there was no cable TV in those days, I had very limited access to European football.

My interaction with football was largely dependent on the back pages of newspapers, and listening to the BBC and VOA on my father’s transistor radio.

Later, I somehow found out that our rich neighbor had some magical device we called video sender (not sure it’s the real name or what the device looks like), but, word on the street was that the family watch those European club matches I read about on papers and hear of on the radio.

But, the most interesting discovery was that the sitting room window was just close to the fence that separates our compounds and the TV was facing the window. All I needed to do, was climb and stay on the fence and I may just watch European football!

Imagine the bragging rights that will give me on the streets and at School when they know I watch those matches live and they will have to come to me for tales of how it all happened. Now, I have phobia for heights, but, the love for football and the glory that will come with it trumped my fear of death.

Arsenal Love from generation to generation

Most of the matches I saw were the French league games and so easily, I noticed a languid coach with big with glasses and funny hairstyle whose team played some of the most exciting football I’ve ever seen.

That man turned out to by Arsène Wenger.

By then, the late 80’s, I had known that players can change clubs (didn’t understand the dynamics then), but, Monaco became the team I was fond of in my early days.

While I enjoyed international tournaments before then, it wasn’t until 1994 that I fell in love and in aweof a player, Dennis "The Iceman" Bergkamp.

The way he touched the ball, moves with or without the ball, everything was done so effortlessly yet with graceful perfection, like there was a thought behind every breath he takes!

So I had a manager I loved(Wenger), a team I liked (Monaco), a player I was in awe of(Bergkamp)

Fast forward 1995, Wenger had left Monaco, Bergkamp had moved to Arsenal. So, I still liked and followed Monaco largely because of Victor Ikpeba, but, I took interest in the North London club my football idol just joined.

I fondly remember the match 4-2 over Southampton in September 1995 because I probably would have died as I fell off the fence while celebrating a sumptuous volley from my idol Bergkamp to score his first Arsenal goal.

The excitement was unreal because I got up, tried to climb the fence again to finish the match, only then did I realize I had sprained my ankle dislocated my shoulder because I couldn’t go up the fence or even walk back home properly.

That goal and that near-death experience was the moment I knew I was an Arsenal fan.

The arrival of Wenger the next year sealed the love story and since then, I’ve never looked back again

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