April 20th 2018
Today Arsene Wenger stepped down as manager of Arsenal Football Club. I usually like to keep football away from this blog, because this blog is about who I am as a person, but, as mental as it sounds, Arsene Wenger has had a large part in shaping the person that I’ve become.
“Nobody has enough talent to live on talent alone. Even when you have talent, a life without work goes nowhere.”
Arsene Wenger joined Arsenal when I was two years old, so my entire football supporting life has known nothing but him. I never knew an Arsenal before Arsene, to the point that I, like many others, once assumed that the club was named after him.
My Dad became an Arsenal fan because he liked the colour of the shirt. His Mum and Chelsea-supporting Dad took him to a sports store and told him to pick out a football kit. He chose the red of Arsenal.
I became an Arsenal fan because of my Dad. I remained an Arsenal fan because of Arsene Wenger.
“I enable others to express what they have within. I’m a facilitator of what is beautiful in man.”
What people who aren’t football fans don’t understand about football is the intrinsic, unexplainable connection a supporter feels to The Club. And in my case The Club is synonymous with Arsene Wenger.
What I don’t understand about people who aren’t football fans is what they do with all their free time. Because, in this age, being a football fan doesn’t just involve watching a ninety minute match every Saturday afternoon. Now football, and all of its intricacies, is something you follow every day. It’s full time, if you’ll pardon the pun.
So, in spite of the sheer amount of football media I consume on a daily basis, it still came as a shock to me when I got the notification this morning that Arsene Wenger is going to leave Arsenal at the end of the season.
“The only moment of possible happiness is the present. The past leaves regrets, and the future gives uncertainty.”
To steal one of the very many fantastic tweets I saw today. It’s like when the Queen eventually dies: You knew it was coming, but that doesn’t mean you were prepared.
And I’m not prepared. Because football without Arsene is not the football I know. Arsenal without Arsene is not the club I know. I appreciate that the club existed before Arsene, but I didn’t exist before Arsene, so thats not really important to me.
Arsene is not just a football manager. To many people my age he’s like a sage, profound, prophetic Grandfather figure who spouts wisdom on life, and love, and art.
“When you’re obliged to do something, you do it badly. When you enjoy something, you do it with more conviction, with more creativity.”
In all of today’s outpouring tributes from former and current players of Arsene they mention one common thing. Arsene didn’t just make them better football players, he made them better men.
And that applied to me too. Arsene’s philosophy was to always operate with class and dignity but more importantly to do it with beauty. He knew that there was a thin slice of success that depended on talent alone, but the rest of it was made up of hard work. He strived for perfection and he always went out of his way to help his fellow man. And that’s the kind of man I want to be.
It sounds like I’m eulogising him, and in a way I am.
“You have to find a balance between your masochistic capability to endure what you’re being put through and the pleasure of accomplishment.”
Arsene will live on though. He may even go on to work for someone else’s club, and that will be weird. Because for me there’s only one club that will ever be his, and there’s only one of him. There’s only one Arsene Wenger.
Until tomorrow, and forever, it really is Arsene FC.