Rivalry, derby games, passion and ferocity, elements to football that Sky can't manipulate or own. But when did you finally get it? When did the hate arrive in your soul?
Growing up the only Spurs fan in my family I didn’t understand the nuances of hatred towards the red lot. I had no idea about uprooting, fixing votes, storming the North Bank or the thousand of other reasons of why to hate or taunt. Even that fabulous day where Gazza thrashed a free kick past David Seaman I was joyous for the result, not necessarily because of the opposition.
I knew they were the scum, I knew the songs, but I was too young to comprehend it fully. At school we played Arsenal v Tottenham in the playground, it was a fierce foot swinging mess, but when the bell rang, just like the “friendly derby” nonsense you will hear spouted in and around Liverpool, we went back to being friends.
However as time passed the hatred arrived. It walked up to me, stroked my cheek, rubbed my neck and nuzzled its way into my heart. I finally got it, I finally knew what the game meant and what them lot mean to me and every other Spurs fan. The game isn’t about victory or three points, it isn’t the cliche life or death for us, it is the very fabric of our existence. However, for it to reach this personal level of importance, I need to say thank you to two people.
The red caught me instantly with the white JVC burning through me, it was like the Arc of the Covenant being opened
It was a beautiful sunny morning in Mill Hill and I was sat on a step outside the Sacred Heart Church on Mill Hill Broadway waiting for my mum. It was FA Cup semi-final day and of course I was wearing my Spurs shirt. My mum was still inside the Church, I had sneaked out after Holy Communion as nerves and boredom had overcome me. My friend was meant to meet me but he had bottled it, so with nothing to do I watched the world pass by.
In the distance I spotted two men walking down the Broadway, both were unremarkable, but the way they changed pace and crossed the road at a strange place caught my attention. Suddenly it became clear they were coming to me, as an innocent 12 year old with even less street smarts than I have today, I sat there and waited as they approached.
“You’re a Spurs fan?”
As I said this I proudly showed my shirt.
“Ok. That’s nice.”
“Are you Spurs?”
The two men looked at each other before turning back to me and opening their tracksuit tops. The red caught me instantly with the white JVC burning through me, it was like the Arc of the Covenant being opened, sheer pain and fear rushed through the 12 year old me. I knew I was in a bad place, but I didn’t know how to react, I had to sit and play it out.
“Spurs? You f***ing joking you little sh*t. Who the f*** do you think you are. Spurs scum Wa*nker. Arsenal!! Arsenal!!. Hahahahaha.”
In ten seconds or so they had used more swear words than I had ever encountered in my life. With that they turned, zipped up their tracksuits before flicking me a V and walking off. I wasn’t shocked, I was just puzzled. What inspired them? What was the reasoning? What brought them to that base level were they thought that type of behaviour was acceptable? Why did two Gooners verbally abuse a 12 year old boy sat on the steps of a church?
They were questions that at the time I was unable to form let along answer. I was 12 I didn’t know hate or rivalry really. I knew I didn’t like things like marmalade and Arsenal, but hate was too big a concept. However later that day as we crumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Wembley it came to me, I learned there isn’t a starting point to it.
Those Arsenal supporters that claim it doesn’t exist, they aren’t football fans. They are the petri dish result of Sky pillaging the game with 3D, Fanzones, MNF and SNF hype
The hate is just there, festering away waiting for the right reaction/situation/chemical imbalance for it to manifest itself. If you are true Spurs you will have it. Even if you are true Scum you will have it. Those Arsenal supporters that claim it doesn’t exist, they aren’t football fans. They are the petri dish result of Sky pillaging the game with 3D, Fanzones, MNF and SNF hype. Each time a Gooner says: “Man U are bigger rivals,” Rupert Murdoch gets a hard on.
Those two Gooners may have been out of order but at least they demonstrated that they understood it. True rivalry has no rationale. Those cretins opened me up to it and although I would never shout abuse at a 12 year old kid, I feel the same. I despise Arsenal. I loathe them and with all my heart I wish for their destruction, but then I don’t. I need them to exist as it is their existence which means we get to have these games that mean so much.
For good and glory to exist there has to be evil. If you accept God, there has to be the devil. If you support Spurs there has to exist Arsenal. It is what makes us and what makes a day like tomorrow so exciting. It doesn’t need the fanfare, the fireworks, adverts or TV spots, it is what it is. Pure rivalry, pure hatred.
I loathe them and with all my heart I wish for their destruction, but then I don’t. I need them to exist as it is their existence which means we get to have these games that mean so much
From both sides of the divide there are moments of glory, games that will live long in the memory, and of course where we have pain and glory they have the same. For every 5-1, 3-2, 3-1 there are moments like that 1993 FA Cup semi. It is this pain and rivalry that makes football the obsessive, irrational and glorious sport we love.
I would have got the hatred eventually, but today as I sit and type this with butterflies in my stomach, I thank those two Gooners for sparking it into life. One day if I have a child they will know this from birth, so hopefully they don’t have to find out the way I did.
See you all on Saturday for another chapter.