My First Love: I’m coming back…too!

One of the biggest news in sports, these past few weeks, has been LeBron’s return to Cleveland after 4 years in Miami. If you missed his announcement on Sports Illustrated,you probably won’t understand the tone of this post. ‘Bron (yeah, we are cool like that) announced his decision and then jetted off to South America before anyone could ask him questions. Well, I’m taking a page out of his book before I head to Mexico on vacation. #DontJudge.

henry

Before I even knew what winning and losing a league was all about, Arsenal was the first team I cared about. I fell in love with Arsenal because of Thierry Henry. He had such electrifying pace and an arrogant demeanor. In fact, to me the whole team had this swagger about them and was, in that period, the only team that dared to challenge Manchester United’s apparent chokehold on the English league. Of course, it also didn’t hurt that NwanKwo Kanu represented the club. Back in secondary school, I looked forward to getting to school the next morning and arguing about Henry and Van Nistelrooy. (I still think Henry is better – the records speak for themselves). Arsenal was winning trophies just about every year, even going unbeaten in their last league title earning the moniker, “The Invisibles”. Everything changes after the summer of 2005, when the club won its last trophy, lifting the FA cup final against those other guys. Arsenal stopped challenging and I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the manager’s allusion to 4th place as a trophy. There didn’t appear to be any progress either and it appeared we were content to settle for the last champion’s league spot each season. No team wins forever, I get that; just ask Real Madrid (and those other guys in Machester) but all you can ask for is that each year you position yourself to compete and give yourself a chance to win. Arsenal, to me, wasn’t doing that and I made the decision to leave.

When I left Arsenal, I was hurt. We hadn’t won for a few years and I was seeking titles. There were too many close shaves: the Babel strike shortly after we scored against Liverpool, Obafemi’s goal in the Carling Cup final, the Eduardo injury that may or may not have cost us the title in 2007. More frustratingly, it appeared the manager had lost his competitive edge. We were losing our best players every year and replacing them with unproven youth. I couldn’t bring myself to root for any other team in the country.

I remember sitting there at the Leddy Library, University of Windsor knowing I was leaving behind something I had spent a long time rooting for. Arsenal is a club that had given me immense satisfaction over the years. If I had to do it all over again, I’d probably do things differently, but I’d still have left. Barca, for me, was an important learning experience. These past four years helped make me into a better fan, appreciating the difficulty in sustaining success. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be as objective as I am with the game today. It’s just sports after all. It is supposed to be a stress reliever not the stress agent it was becoming

Barcelona was the team most similar to arsenal as well as a team built to win and win now. I have enjoyed 5 glorious, trophy-laden years with Barca and I still want to celebrate as many titles as possible, no question. However, what’s most important for me is the feeling I had as a kid in Lagos: the kid who because of the lack of “light” at home or a cancelled DSTV subscription, was never hesitant topay his last thirty naira at a viewing center.

I started supporting Barca in the summer of 2010 because of Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and the puppet master, Guardiola. I was walking away from the team that has given me all the kinds of emotion you can possibly derive from watching football. I recognized something magical brew in Barcelona. This was a golden generation in ascension; a team built to win and dominate – and that’s exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is the winning culture we have become accustomed to at Barca. Granted, the team did not win any major trophies last season but this is a team full of winners and I’m impressed with some of their off season moves. With the little magician, Messi, Neymar and the addition of Suarez, there will surely be a bit more bite to the attack – no pun intended of course. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. I want to thank the wonderful Barcelona organization for giving me an amazing four years; it truly is “more than a club”. Nothing lasts forever; at least I have these memories.

Arsenal and I are like the couple that can’t be together and yet can’t stay apart! always believed that I’d return to Arsenal, I just didn’t know when. After the season Arsenal had, they have made some aggressive moves in the transfer market that signifies a real intent to mount a sustained challenge. At the same time, Barca is becoming too jaded for me – too easy. Winning almost feels assured and you can’t get involved in any meaningful discussions because not a lot of people follow the Spanish la liga. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Barca for anywhere else but Arsenal. The more time passes, the more right it feels. This is what makes me happy.

I know how difficult it is to win the league title and as such I have measured expectations this go around. The team won the FA cup last year and we’ll love to consolidate on that this season but I’m realistic. It will be a long process. My patience will get tested again. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a coach who appears to have found his competitive edge again.

I have experienced the highs of winnings with Barcelona and if there is anything that has taught me, it is that winning is as much as a part of sports and life in general as is losing. Except for the humiliation at the hands of Bayern in the Champions league, I never really felt a sense of sadness when Barca lost. It was almost a given that they’ll win again. I missed the passion and uncertainty Arsenal provided. I probably won’t be punching walls in celebrations or running around the streets in celebration – age and several hundreds of dollars in repairs has taught me better.

In the English premier league, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.

My relationship with the club is bigger than football. I didn’t realize that four years ago, I do now. I’m ready to accept the challenge. The love has been rekindled, I’m coming back.

If you are interested in this series…feel free to do a write up and send it in with 2 related pictures to dami@dudunorth.com

Dami is the Founder and Creative Director of Dudunorth. She has an immense passion for media, marketing and all things creative.

2 Responses to “My First…Love by Femi Odutola”

  1. David Momoh, Reply

    Nice write up, a true fan sticks thru the good and bad. You can take time off but you can’t leave to another team. You sit and sulk and stay teamless till you die(or you receive a go ahead from the Holy See after reciting a number of Hail Marys). This is religion bruh. Like the bible says the woman or man who divorce cannot remarry. When you divorce your team you cannot remarry another team. And then come back.
    But we the loyal fans who have gone through the pains of Arsenals decade old disappointment, some of us bordering getting Erectile dysfunction prescriptions,will reconsider your application to come back. The fact that you are older and wiser will definitely help your case. We will get back to you at the end of the transfer window. Lol

    • The Governor, Reply

      hahaha! Thanks David. In the words of Lupita Nyong, “your dreams (as well as comments) are always valid here on Dudunorth and all our social media offerings.
      I keenly await your feedback and I’ll suggest referring back to your aforementioned religion regarding your erectile dysfunction prescriptions.

      Take care.

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