It’s not easy being the father of an Arsenal fan … especially when you’re trying to communicate with a teenage boy long distance.
I blame Bahrain for making him a Gooner. Arsenal fans often refer to themselves as Gooners. As it turns out, there are a number of theories as to why they have a different nickname to their team, The Gunners.
The most commonly held belief on this dates back to the days of hooliganism in the 1970s as one of Arsenal's ‘firms’ was called the Goon Squad. However, others say it is just a pronunciation alteration, like how Newcastle’s modification of the word ‘town’ led to them being called the Toon Army.
Football-made Stan Jnr has been a Gooner from the moment he signed up for the Arsenal Soccer School Bahrain football academy, which no longer exists, at the age of five.
It’s all he’s known, indoctrinated to support the North London team by his coaches. In fact, when we signed up more than a decade ago, the young lady who took his name down was even able to pronounce his surname correctly, much to his delight, because she used to play for Fulham Ladies with his auntie Siobhan – one of those classic expat Bahrain stories of complete strangers living in the kingdom somehow being linked together.
I’ve got loads of other examples which I will feature in future columns … and readers, please feel free to share yours with me.
I don’t think I missed many of Stan Jnr’s matches, in fact we even took a family trip to Dubai to support him and the team in a tournament proudly wearing our Arsenal shirts sporting the words ‘Bahrain Dad’, ‘Bahrain Mum’ and ‘Bahrain Sister’ on the back of them.
Now that he’s back home in the UK, he’s managed to be selected for his Bristol Grammar School Sixth Form first team and he’s also playing for a local Sunday League team of sloggers.
I’m already hurting inside that I can’t be screaming support (and abuse at the rival teams / referee / linesmen etc) from the edge of the pitch … although, on this matter, he’s probably grateful I’m still in Bahrain.
But I like to keep in touch with him every evening by Facetime or WhatsApp because I miss him a lot.
It’s great, we talk football for 10 minutes and then he throws in a little about his life before he gets bored and signs off.
I can cope with that and it’s fine until Arsenal lose or draw. Then he goes into hibernation like most 16-year-olds and will not answer the phone.
Nowadays, I pray the Gunners win and to be honest, it’s not been a bad season so far … but the team is so unpredictable.
Take the other weekend for example. They were 2-0 up at half-time against struggling Watford and you’d have thought the game was in the bag.
There’s no guarantees with Arsenal. Unlike Manchester City who hammered eight past the same team a week later without reply, the Gunners let Watford buzz back into life and draw level and almost catastrophically win the match.
I couldn’t get a word out of Stan Jnr for days and I had such a good joke to share with him.
‘Question: Why aren't the Arsenal football team allowed to own a dog? Answer: Because they can’t hold on to a lead.’
I don’t suppose he would have laughed.